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Welton Ivan Taylor

World-renowned scientist and educator Welton I. Taylor was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on November 12, 1919. His family moved to Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood shortly thereafter where Taylor attended DuSable High School, graduating as Class Valedictorian in 1937. Impressed by Taylor’s performance at DuSable, local African American businessmen from the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity sponsored his undergraduate education in bacteriology at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana for all four years. Taylor graduated in 1941 with a B.S. in Bacteriology and a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Field Artillery. He deployed to the South Pacific as a Liaison Pilot in the 93rd Infantry Division, the first all-African American division to enter combat in World War II. At war’s end, Taylor returned to his alma mater to earn M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in bacteriology on the G.I. Bill.

In 1948, Taylor joined the faculty of the University of Illinois’ College of Medicine and immediately began research on the treatment of gas gangrene and tetanus—two infections plaguing victims of World War II. His discovery that both infections could be controlled by antibiotics found in any local pharmacy was lauded by the Annals of Surgery and the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and the New York State Department of Civil Defense incorporated his recommendations into their civil defense plans for the state.

In 1954, the Chicago meatpacking firm Swift & Company recruited Taylor to tackle an outbreak of salmonella poisoning in baby food. Taylor not only solved the problem, he standardized his successful approach and disseminated his methodology to microbiology labs worldwide. Taylor became Microbiologist-in-Chief at Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital in 1959 and in 1961, he was granted a Special Research Fellowship by the National Institutes of Health (NIH-NAIAD) to help British and French scientists eradicate salmonella poisoning in their countries’ imported meats. He returned to Children’s Memorial in 1962 and soon developed new methods of bacterial detection that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and similar agencies around the world rely on today to declare foods salmonella-free. In 1985, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta recognized Taylor for this work, naming a new bacterium, Enterobacter taylorae, in honor of Taylor and a British colleague. Welton Taylor is the first African American to be so honored.

During his 50-year long career, Taylor patented four products, published 40 articles in scientific journals (and became the first African American on the editorial boards of three of them), taught microbiology both at the University of Illinois and at Northwestern University Medical School and helped eleven Chicago-area hospitals, seven corporations, three government agencies, and the CDC address Legionnaire’s disease, toxic shock syndrome, sexually transmitted diseases, and AIDS. Taylor actively mentored younger microbiologists and lived to see his ground-breaking research become a continual source of influence on scientists today.

A staunch civil rights activist and community leader, Taylor was one of the first African Americans to integrate Chicago’s Chatham neighborhood where he served as President of the Chatham Avalon Park Community Council, founded the Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity, and received the Brotherhood Award of the National Conference of Christians and Jews for his efforts. He received alumni achievement awards from both the University of Illinois and DuSable High School and received the Congressional Gold Medal awarded to the Tuskegee Airmen in 2007. In May of 2016, Dr. Taylor will be inducted into the National Inventors’ Hall of Fame, joining the ranks of inventors Thomas Edison, Eli Whitney, George Washington Carver, Percy Julian, Orville Wright, Steve Jobs, and over 500 others whose inventions have “benefitted humanity.”

Taylor married Jayne Rowena Kemp in 1945 and enjoyed 59 years of marriage until Jayne’s death in 2005. The couple raised two daughters, Karyn and Shelley, a Trial Consultant and Educator, respectively.

In July 2012, Dr. Taylor published his World War II memoir, Two Steps from Glory. He passed away three months later on November 1, 2012, just eleven days shy of his 93rd birthday.

Accession Number

A2003.056

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/27/2003 |and| 5/15/2003

Last Name

Taylor

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Ivan

Occupation
Schools

Austin O. Sexton Elementary School

Peoria Central High School

Du Sable Leadership Academy

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

University of Illinois College of Medicine

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Welton

Birth City, State, Country

Birmingham

HM ID

TAY04

Favorite Season

Summer

Sponsor

National Science Foundation

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

East Africa

Favorite Quote

Don't Sweat The Small Stuff.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

11/12/1919

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Gumbo

Death Date

11/1/2012

Short Description

Bacteriologist Welton Ivan Taylor (1919 - 2012 ) discovered that antibiotics can treat tetanus and gas gangrene.

Employment

University of Illinois, Chicago

Swift and Company

Children's Memorial Hospital

World Health Organization

Main Sponsor
Main Sponsor URL
Favorite Color

Red

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Welton Taylor interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Welton Taylor's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Welton Taylor shares his father's family history

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Welton Taylor shares his mother's family history

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Welton Taylor details his genealogical efforts

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Welton Taylor details his family's migration

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Welton Taylor remembers his first cousin, William C. Handy

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Welton Taylor details the challenges his parents faced

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Welton Taylor shares accounts of the Chicago race riot of 1919

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Welton Taylor remembers his father's lessons

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Welton Taylor describes his childhood environs, Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Welton Taylor describes his introduction to science

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Welton Taylor recalls his youth in Peoria, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Welton Taylor recalls his experience at DuSable High School, Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Welton Taylor recounts his pursuit of a college education

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Welton Taylor reviews the contributions of scientist Louis Pasteur

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Welton Taylor recounts his experience as an ROTC cadet

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Welton Taylor details his military promotion

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Welton Taylor details a racist encounter during his military travels

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Welton Taylor considers the legacy of the U.S. Civil War

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Welton Taylor recalls discrimination in the U.S. Armed Forces

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Welton Taylor recounts his experience at Fort Sill, Oklahoma

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Welton Taylor describes his introduction to aviation

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Welton Taylor recalls highlights from Fort Sill, Oklahoma

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Welton Taylor remembers training field artillerymen at Fort Sill

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Welton Taylor recounts his promotion to first lieutenant

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Welton Taylor recalls lessons from his military training

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Welton Taylor recalls discrimination in his travels south

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Welton Taylor details his aviation training

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Welton Taylor remembers his experiences at Fort Huachuca

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Welton Taylor shares recollections of World War II action at Guadalcanal

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Welton Taylor recounts watching Charles Lindbergh fly a P-61

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Welton Taylor continues to describe his photographic interests during World War II

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Welton Taylor recalls challenging segregated military facilities

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Welton Taylor details his adventures in aviation while in the military

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Welton Taylor recounts his return from the U.S. military

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Welton Taylor recalls his success as a graduate student

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Welton Taylor remembers his activities as a graduate student

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Welton Taylor recounts his completion of graduate studies

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Welton Taylor recalls securing his first job after graduate school

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Welton Taylor recalls incidents in his early career as a microbiologist

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Welton Taylor describes his World War II injury

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Welton Taylor discusses his career at Swift & Company

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Slating of Welton Taylor interview, part 2

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Welton Taylor discusses Swift & Company's baby food troubles

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Welton Taylor describes his contribution to Swift & Company's product line

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Welton Taylor recalls a case of contaminated meat at Swift & Company

Tape: 12 Story: 1 - Welton Taylor criticizes business practices at Swift & Company

Tape: 12 Story: 2 - Welton Taylor recalls the opportunity to work at the Pasteur Institute, Lille, France

Tape: 12 Story: 3 - Welton Taylor details his experience at the Pasteur Institute, Lille, France

Tape: 12 Story: 4 - Welton Taylor discusses his daughters' French language acquisition

Tape: 12 Story: 5 - Welton Taylor recalls his family's residence in London, England

Tape: 13 Story: 1 - Welton Taylor shares final thoughts on the history of racism in the military

Tape: 13 Story: 2 - Welton Taylor evaluates the current state of race relations

Tape: 13 Story: 3 - Welton Taylor reflects on his life's course

Tape: 13 Story: 4 - Welton Taylor reflects on his travels abroad

Tape: 13 Story: 5 - Welton Taylor describes his avocations