The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Essex Finney

Share on Social Media

Information about Essex Finney

Profile image of Essex Finney

Profession

Category:
ScienceMakers
Occupation(s):
Agricultural Engineer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
None
Favorite Food:
None
Favorite Time of Year:
May, October
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Bermuda
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
5/16/1937
Birth Location:
Powhatan County, Virginia

Profession

Category:
ScienceMakers
Occupation(s):
Agricultural Engineer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
None
Favorite Food:
None
Favorite Time of Year:
May, October
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Bermuda
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
5/16/1937
Birth Location:
Powhatan County
See how Essex Finney is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Agricultural engineer Essex E. Finney was born in Powhatan County, Virginia on May 16, 1937. As a child, he worked on his family farm growing tobacco, wheat and corn as well as raising farm animals. Finney became interested in agricultural engineering when his family acquired a tractor. After graduating from Pocahontas High School in 1954, he enrolled at Virginia State University. In 1956, Finney transferred to Virginia Polytechnic Institute, where he was one of the first African American students to integrate the university. Finney earned his B.S. degree in agricultural engineering in 1959 from Virginia Polytechnic Institute. He went on to earn his M.S. degree in 1960 from Pennsylvania State University, and in 1963, he was the first African American to receive his Ph.D. degree from the Department of Agricultural Engineering at Michigan State University. Between 1963 and 1965, Finney served as an officer in the United States Military.

In 1965, Finney accepted a position with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s Beltsville Research Center in the instrumentation research laboratory. He was appointed assistant director of the center in 1977 and became director in 1989. For one year, Finney served as associate director of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) twelve-state North Atlantic Area. In addition, from 1980 to 1981, he was hired as a senior policy analyst in the Office of the Science Advisor to Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. In 1992, Finney went to work at the USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C. where he served as the associate administrator for the ARS. Finney worked with the USDA until his retirement in 1995. In addition to his administrative duties, Finney also conducted research. His early research investigated methods of drying cereal grains like wheat, rice, and barley, and his later research focused on techniques and instruments that measure food quality.

Finney was named a fellow of the African Scientific Institute. He was a member of the American Society of Agricultural Engineers and the National Academy of Engineering. In 1985, the College of Engineering at the Pennsylvania State University presented Finney with their Engineering Alumnus Award.

Essex E. Finney was interviewed by the The HistoryMakers on July 13, 2012.

See how Essex Finney is related to other HistoryMakers
Loading...
Click Here To Explore The Archive Today!
  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Essex Finney's interview - part one
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Slating of Essex Finney's interview - part two
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Essex Finney lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Essex Finney talks about his family home in Powhatan County and his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Essex Finney describes his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Essex Finney describes his mother's growing up in Michaux, Virginia
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Essex Finney describes his father's family background - part one
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Essex Finney describes his father's family background - part two
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Essex Finney describes the Finney lineage
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Essex Finney talks about his father's parents and family
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Essex Finney talks about his father, Essex Eugene Finney - part one
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Essex Finney talks about his father, Essex Eugene Finney - part two
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Essex Finney talks about his parents meeting and getting married
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Essex Finney talks about growing up around his family in Macon, Virginia
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Essex Finney describes his childhood home
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Essex Finney corrects his great grandmother's name
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Essex Finney describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Essex Finney describes the Powhatan countryside
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Essex Finney talks about his father's farming
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Essex Finney describes his experience at Pine Hill Elementary School
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Essex Finney describes his childhood interest in farming
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Essex Finney talks about the changes that have occurred in Powhatan County
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Essex Finney talks about race relations in Powhatan County in the 1940s and 1950s
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Essex Finney talks about his grandmother's health problems
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Essex Finney talks about his earliest exposure to science
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Essex Finney describes the benefits of using tractors and mechanical equipment for farming
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Essex Finney describes his experience at Pocahontas High School
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Essex Finney talks about his decision to attend Virginia State College
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Essex Finney talks about his mother's death
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Essex Finney talks about his mentor, Reuben McDaniel, at Virginia State College
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Essex Finney describes his experience at Virginia State College
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Essex Finney talks about the African American students at Virginia Tech in the 1950s
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Essex Finney talks about living with Janie and William Hogue in Blacksburg
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Essex Finney describes his experience at Virginia Tech
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Essex Finney talks about his mentors, Phillip Mason and Earl Swink, at Virginia Tech
  • Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Essex Finney talks about his Aunt Novella's support of his college education
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Essex Finney talks about his mentors
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Essex Finney talks about the funding for his education at Pennsylvania State University and Michigan State University
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Essex Finney talks about getting married to Rosa Ellen Bradley in 1959
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Essex Finney describes his experience at Pennsylvania State University
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Essex Finney describes his decision to pursue a Ph.D. degree at Michigan State University
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Essex Finney describes his Ph.D. dissertation research on the viscoelastic behavior of the potato
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Essex Finney describes his experience at Michigan State University
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Essex Finney describes his experience in the military
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Essex Finney describes his early years at the U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Essex Finney describes his work at the U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Essex Finney talks about the racial make-up at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the 1960s and 1970s
  • Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Essex Finney describes his experience as a mid-career fellow at Princeton University
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Essex Finney talks about Malcolm Thompson at the Agricultural Research Service
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Essex Finney talks about being appointed as the assistant director of the USDA Beltsville Research Center
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Essex Finney describes his service during the Carter and Reagan administrations
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Essex Finney describes the differences in the agricultural policies of the Carter and Reagan administrations
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Essex Finney describes his administrative responsibilities during his career at the USDA
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Essex Finney discusses current issues in agricultural research - part one
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Essex Finney discusses current issues in agricultural research - part two
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Essex Finney talks about a reunion with his friends from Virginia Polytechnic Institute/Virginia Tech
  • Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Essex Finney discusses federal funding for agricultural research
  • Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Essex Finney reflects upon his legacy
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Essex Finney talks about his hopes and concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Essex Finney reflects upon his mentors
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Essex Finney talks about his family
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Essex Finney talks about how he would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Essex Finney describes his photographs - part one
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Essex Finney describes his photographs - part two