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Waverly Person

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Information about Waverly Person

Profile image of Waverly Person

Profession

Category:
ScienceMakers
Occupation(s):
Geophysicist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Brown
Favorite Food:
Steak, Yams (Candied)
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
Keep Getting Up.

Birthplace

Born:
5/1/1926
Birth Location:
Blackridge, Virginia

Profession

Category:
ScienceMakers
Occupation(s):
Geophysicist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Brown
Favorite Food:
Steak, Yams (Candied)
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
Keep Getting Up.

Birthplace

Born:
5/1/1926
Birth Location:
Blackridge
See how Waverly Person is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Geophysicist and seismologist Waverly Person was born in Blackridge, Virginia on May 1, 1926 to Bessie Butts and Santee Person. Person grew up as the third of twelve children and helped on the family farm. For high school, he attended the Saint Paul Normal and Industrial School, the high school associated with the historically black Saint Paul's College in Lawrenceville, Virginia. In 1944, he was drafted into the U.S. Army as a high school senior, and Person served in the Pacific during World War II and in the Korean War. In the Army, he was promoted seven times to achieve the rank of first sergeant and received the Good Conduct Medal and the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal. After his honorable discharge in 1951, he returned to Saint Paul's College and received his B.S. degree in mathematics. Person met Sarah Walker during college and they married in 1954.

He worked as a physical science technician for the Department of Agriculture before being transferred to the Department of Commerce as a seismic monitoring technician. Person became interested in geophysics while he was working and started attending American University and George Washington University. Person became a qualified geophysicist in 1965, but he remained a technician due to racism. He was finally hired as a federal geophysicist and he transferred to the United States Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colorado in 1971. Person worked his way up and became the first African American chief scientist in 1977, where he remained until his retirement in 2006.

Person is often sought out by national and international media as an earthquake spokesperson. Person has received an honorary doctorate in science from St. Paul's College, the Outstanding Government Communicator Award, the Meritorious Service Award from the United States Department of the Interior, and the Annual Minority Award from the Community Services Department in Boulder, Colorado. He has been active with the Seismological Society of America, Boulder County Crimestoppers, and Flatirons Kiwanis Club.

Waverly Person was interviewed by the The HistoryMakers on June 19, 2002.

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Waverly Person's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Waverly Person shares his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Waverly Person talks about his parents and segregation
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Waverly Person talks about his father
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Waverly Person talks about the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Waverly Person talks about being innovative and about his grandparents
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Waverly Person talks about elementary school
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Waverly Person talks about his childhood personality
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Waverly Person talks about reading and his community
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Waverly Person talks about some childhood memories
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Waverly Person talks about his eleven siblings and deciding to attend high school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Waverly Person talks about attending high school at Saint Paul's College
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Waverly Person talks about learning about the government and his civic actions to help blacks register to vote
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Waverly Person talks about his high school activities and being drafted into the Army
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Waverly Person talks about his Army training
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Waverly Person talks about his participation in the invasion of Japan at the end of World War II
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Waverly Person talks about the Korean War and Army integregation
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Waverly Person talks about going back to Saint Paul's College
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Waverly Person talks about starting work at the federal government
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Waverly Person talks about becoming a geophysicist, part 1
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Waverly Person talks about becoming a geophysicist, part 2
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Waverly Person talks about discrimination in the federal government
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Waverly Person talks about the United States Geological Survey (USGS) National Earthquake Information Service
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Waverly Person talks about earthquake magnitudes
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Waverly Person defines earthquake and fault and remembers some major earthquakes
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Waverly Person talks about science education and the difficulties of predicting earthquakes
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Waverly Person talks about the unique people who call the Earthquake Center
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Waverly Person talks about the United States Geological Survey and fighting for federal funding
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Waverly Person talks about the science in the black community
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Waverly Person talks about his wife and his legacy
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Waverly Person talks about how he would like to be remembered