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Emmett Chappelle

Environmental scientist and biochemist[?] Emmett W. Chappelle was born on October 24, 1925 in Phoenix, Arizona to Viola White Chappelle and Isom Chappelle. His family grew cotton and tended cows on a small farm at the edge of town. Chappelle was drafted into the U.S. Army, right after graduating from the Phoenix Union Colored High School in 1942. He was assigned to the Army Specialized Training Program, where he was able to take some engineering courses. Chappelle was later reassigned to the all-Black 92nd Infantry Division and served in Italy. After returning to the U.S., Chappelle went on to earn his A.A. degree from Phoenix College. With the help provided by the GI Bill of Rights, Chappelle was able to receive his B.S. degree in biology from the University of California at Berkeley in 1950.

Chappelle went on to serve as an instructor at the Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee from 1950 to 1953, where he was also able to conduct his own research. Chappelle’s work was noticed by the scientific community, and he accepted an offer to study at the University of Washington, where he received his M.S. degree in biology in 1954. Chappelle continued his graduate studies at Stanford University, though he did not complete a Ph.D. degree. In 1958 Chappelle joined the Research Institute for Advanced Studies in Baltimore, where his research aided in the creation of a safe oxygen supply for astronauts. He went on to work for Hazelton Laboratories in 1963. In 1966, Chappelle joined the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as a part of the Goddard Space Flight Center. Chappelle’s research has focused in the area of luminescence, which is light without heat. He has been involved in a number of projects, including the Viking space craft. Chappelle used chemicals from fireflies as well as adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to develop a method of detecting life on Mars. He used this research in bioluminescence, light produced by living organisms, to detect bacteria in water, as well as in improving environmental management.

Chappelle retired from NASA in 2001. He has received fourteen U.S. patents, produced more than thirty-five peer-reviewed scientific or technical publications, nearly fifty conference papers, and co-authored or edited numerous publications. Chappelle has been honored as one of the top 100 African American scientist and engineers of the 20th century. He has received an Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal from NASA for his work. Chappelle was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2007. He lives with his daughter and son-in-law in Baltimore.

Emmett W. Chappelle was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 30, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.234

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/30/2012

Last Name

Chappelle

Maker Category
Marital Status

Widowed

Middle Name

W.

Schools

Wilson Ward Elementary

George Washington Carver High School

University of California, Berkeley

University of Washington

Stanford University

Phoenix College

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Emmett

Birth City, State, Country

Phoenix

HM ID

CHA10

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Arizona

Favorite Vacation Destination

Assateague, Maryland

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Maryland

Birth Date

10/24/1925

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Baltimore

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Environmental scientist and biochemist Emmett Chappelle (1925 - ) was honored as one of the top 100 African American scientist and engineers of the 20th century for the many impacts of his research in bioluminescence, light produced by living organisms.

Employment

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Goddard Space Flight Center

Hazelton Laboratories

RIAS Martin M.

Johns Hopkins University

United States Army

Meharry Medical College

Stanford University

Research Institute for Advanced Studies

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
0,0:10010,41:11000,53:12430,68:13310,77:14850,93:15400,99:16778,119:17090,124:25021,179:25930,190:45960,292:46680,303:51540,355:51896,360:52341,366:57290,424:58486,439:59590,454:60418,465:61890,482:63546,506:65018,523:68422,579:68790,584:72027,595:76185,659:102967,861:103849,879:110023,1044:110275,1049:112291,1080:112543,1089:112921,1096:121201,1154:121817,1164:127642,1234:128410,1245:129082,1256:147348,1414:148296,1440:149165,1453:153788,1525:154158,1531:156970,1569:167590,1628:170410,1634:170810,1639:204768,1772:209553,1833:210336,1842:210945,1897:217770,1929:218561,1938:234168,2090:243950,2122:244186,2127:274871,2323:276345,2353:279684,2375:280098,2382:280719,2392:281409,2406:290375,2489:292500,2511:295380,2545$0,0:2796,34:5798,45:6410,56:6682,61:7430,74:7838,81:14162,170:14866,178:18900,207:19140,212:20460,251:35100,393:38858,411:40198,423:51670,487:55782,529:57594,551:58039,557:59730,592:80950,763:82700,800:83260,806:83820,816:84590,829:85150,838:87950,909:88580,920:89350,934:89980,944:90400,952:90680,961:100939,1023:101596,1035:102253,1052:103202,1066:104151,1075:104735,1084:112889,1130:124037,1178:125109,1196:125377,1201:126382,1239:127454,1258:127722,1263:128258,1276:131062,1288:133171,1318:133726,1326:134281,1332:135864,1370:140838,1414:144374,1499:150344,1542:151658,1558:152388,1569:154943,1631:156038,1654:157279,1674:157571,1679:164214,1805:165309,1836:180840,1912:183348,1929:196804,1979:197260,1986:197640,1992:197944,1997:205885,2068:206145,2074:206860,2091:207120,2097:207640,2107:209655,2159:218270,2208:218598,2213:220715,2228:221395,2238:226300,2251:230980,2262:234700,2281:243761,2317:244585,2326:257370,2399:257955,2410:258475,2420:258800,2427:260230,2454:265994,2533:273390,2567:273690,2572:275746,2580:277042,2601:280606,2640:286070,2659:286961,2671:287852,2682:294878,2726:298126,2749:324286,2877:324958,2887:326218,2905:326890,2915:335762,3009:336234,3018:340244,3042:340564,3048:367710,3156:368190,3162:370626,3175:385593,3272:385949,3277:389082,3297:411940,3399:425789,3470:431626,3500:432282,3509:433266,3524:433676,3530:446286,3606:446801,3612:447522,3633:457460,3692
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Emmett Chappelle slates the interview and shares his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his mother's growing up in Montgomery, Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Emmett Chappelle talks about how his father moved the family to Arizona

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his parents and the similarities between him and his parents

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his siblings and shares his childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Emmett Chappelle remembers some of the sights, sounds, and smells from his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his childhood neighborhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his childhood schools

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his extracurricular activities

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Emmett Chappelle talks about how his interest in science developed

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Emmett Chappelle talks about living in the desert as a child

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Emmett Chappelle talks about the radio and newspapers of his youth

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his high school experience

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his high school teachers

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his speech impediment

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his experience in the U.S. Army during World War II

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his experience in Italy during World War II

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his experience at Phoenix College

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his wife and why he changed his major to biochemistry

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Emmett Chappelle talks about teaching at Meharry Medical College

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his experience at the University of Washington

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Emmett Chappelle discusses his research at Stanford University and the University of Washington

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his research at the Research Institute for Advanced Studies in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his experience as an astrochemist at Hazelton Laboratories and his extraterrestrial research

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Emmett Chappelle discusses his discoveries in bioluminescence

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his research at the Goddard Space Flight Center and Johns Hopkins University

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Emmett Chappelle discusses his research in fluorescents as well as his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Emmett Chappelle discusses his hopes for the African American community and talks about his family

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his students and his military awards

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Emmett Chappelle tells the story of how he learned how to swim

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Emmett Chappelle describes his photos

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$4

DAStory

5$6

DATitle
Emmett Chappelle talks about his experience as an astrochemist at Hazelton Laboratories and his extraterrestrial research
Emmett Chappelle discusses his discoveries in bioluminescence
Transcript
Okay, now, from '63' [1963] to 1966, you worked as a biochemist for Hazelton Laboratories in Falls Church [Virginia]. What project were you working on there?$$I was developing a system for determining if there was life on other planets.$$Okay. Now, so you were there for a fairly long time working on this, right?$$Um-hum.$$Okay, from what I have here, they would call you an exobiologist, right?$$(No audible response).$$Someone who is engaged in the search for extraterrestrial life and the effects of extraterrestrial surroundings on living organisms.$$Um-hum.$$Okay, so at this point, you become an astrochemist, right. So how do--$$(Laughter).$$--you like that title (laughter)?$$I never considered myself as an astrochemist, even though that was the title they put on me. I was always, considered myself a biochemist.$$Okay, now, did you, if you told somebody you were looking for, you were trying to determine if there was extraterrestrial life, what kind of conversations would you have with people? I mean would they think it was like something that's impossible or what did people think then?$$Well, they wouldn't know what to think. I'm still not sure whether or not there's life on other planets.$$Do you think it's likely?$$I think it's likely. It's not life as we know it here on earth. But I think it's likely that there's, there are organisms up there that reproduce.$$And so you're saying that there are definitely organisms in space that we produce here?$$What?$$You're saying there're organisms in space right now that we produce here in, on earth?$$Well, I'm saying that there's most likely life out there that will reproduce in their own environment, which is (unclear) a criterion of life, the ability to reproduce.$$Okay, now, the target of your design, the instruments that you were designing was the Viking I Mission [the first successful NASA spacecraft to Mars] which occurred in 1975, right?$$That was supposed to be the vehicle on which my experiment would be flown, Viking.$$All right, so was it? I mean did you have experiments--$$It never flew.$$It never flew. Okay. All right. What happened? Why didn't it fly?$$That's a good question. They decided that the experiment which I designed was too specific, that it would call for life, to be too close to life here on earth, and that most likely, it wouldn't work.$$Or it wouldn't detect something that might be close to life on earth, but not quite--$$Um-hum.$$Okay. Okay, so, but Viking did, Viking flew, but your instrumentation didn't go?$$Right.$Okay, all right. All right, now, also, now, working on this project, you became interested in bioluminescence, right?$$(No audible response).$$And tell us how that took place. What is bioluminescence, and what happened during the project to get you interested in it?$$You've seen a fire fly, haven't you?$$Yes, sir.$$Well, that's bioluminescence. You can, you can take those fire flies and grind them up and extract the enzyme, mix it with Adenosine Triphosphate and get light.$$Now, this I kind of a code method of producing light, right? I mean using something that's not, you know, on fire or--$$Um-hum.$$--something without a spark?$$You could call it that.$$Yeah, so is there any heat produced from this light?$$No measurable heat.$$Okay, so are you the first then--I read that you were the first person to discover the chemical composition of bioluminescence, right?$$Yes.$$Okay, all right, so, and that's why you're in the Inventors Hall of Fame, is that true, because of this?$$Yes.$$Okay, and so, how was, how long did it take you to, you know, come up with the chemical composition of bioluminescence and--$$It took years.$$So, when, I mean how many years, I mean approximately how many years did it take to do that?$$What?$$Approximately, how many years did it take you to discover this?$$Approximately three.$$Three years, okay. All right, that's not a very long time. But, so did you--now, as a biochemist, I didn't ask you this before, but I guess this is a good time--now is as good a time as any. What's the day-to-day activities of a biochemist working on the projects that you were working on? I mean how soon do you get to the laboratory, and how many breaks do you get, and--$$(Laughter).$$(Laughter) Is it a short work week or do you have time to play cards or do you, I mean what is the--or do you have to work real hard or what? What is it like?$$Oh, a biochemist is a person who investigates the chemistry of living organisms.$$Okay, well, I was asking about your routine. What do you do?$$(Laughter) What do you mean by my routine?$$Well, what you do, you know, every day after you get up and get dressed and ready to go to work, what do you do at work?$$Well, you go into your laboratory and carry out experiments, hopefully, designed to answer questions as to, as to what are the chemical reactions involved in carrying out a certain biological reaction.$$Okay, typically, would you have a number of assistants or an assistant, or did you have to do everything by yourself or what?$$Usually, you have an assistant.$$Okay, so with this kind of investigation on the properties of bioluminescence, did you utilize electronic measurement devices as well as--$$Yes. You have to use electronic devices to measure the light.$$Okay, can you give us any more detail or--(laughter) are we out of luck (laughter)?$$(Laughter). (Unclear)$$Okay.$$You start out with the fire fly which you have to obtain by way. Either you catch it yourself or you pay the little kids to run around catching them for you. Then you bring them into the lab. You chop off their tails, grind them up and get a solution out of these ground-up tails which contains the enzyme sulforates (ph.) (unclear) and the cofactor Luciferin. You add Adenosine Triphosphate to that mixture and you get light. Adenosine Triphosphate is usually called ATP, which is found in all living organisms. And we were able to use that reaction to, to measure the bacteria in infected urine samples and some of the reaction mixture to the urine sample and measure the amount of light we get.$$Okay, so, well, we're gonna pause here, and then we'll pick up again.$$Okay.$$'Cause I understand like what, yeah.

The Honorable Ruth A. Davis

Ambassador Ruth A. Davis was born on May 28, 1943 in Phoenix, Arizona to parents Anderson and Edith Davis. She attended E.R. Carter and E.C. Clements Elementary Schools in Atlanta, Georgia, where she grew up. Davis graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1962. A cross-country family vacation as a child was an epiphany and changed her life, convincing her that she wanted to travel and see the world.

From 1962 to 1966, Davis attended Spelman College in Atlanta where she earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology and graduated magna cum laude. While attending Spelman, she spent fifteen months studying and traveling in Europe and the Middle East as a Merrill Scholar. In 1968, Davis received her master’s degree from the School of Social Work at the University of California at Berkeley.

Davis is the first African American female career ambassador. She joined the Foreign Service in 1969 and was assigned as Consular Officer in Kinshasa, Zaire until 1971. She also served in Nairobi, Kenya from 1971 to 1973, Tokyo, Japan from 1973 to 1976 and Naples, Italy from 1976 to1980. After completing her assignment in Italy she returned to the United States working as Special Advisor for International Affairs for the Washington, D.C. Government. Finally, in 1992, Davis reached the height of her profession when she was appointed Ambassador to the Republic of Benin. She served in that post until 1996.

Ambassador Davis is credited with playing a significant role in the organization of the 1992 Barcelona Olympic games and in Atlanta’s successful bid for the 1996 games. She is the recipient of several prestigious awards including a Presidential Distinguished Service Award in 1999 and again in 2002. In 2003, Davis was awarded The Secretary’s Distinguished Award by Secretary of State Colin Powell. She served as director general of the Foreign Service and director of human resources from 2001 to 2003. It was here she developed the “School of Leadership and Management,” one of her proudest accomplishments. Davis is committed to diversifying the Foreign Service by recruiting potential diplomats at the college level.

Ambassador Davis is single and resides in Washington, D.C.

Accession Number

A2004.011

Sex

Female

Interview Date

3/2/2004

Last Name

Davis

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Middle Name

A.

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

E. R. Carter Elementary School

E. C. Clement Elementary School

Booker T. Washington High School

Spelman College

University of California, Berkeley

First Name

Ruth

Birth City, State, Country

Phoenix

HM ID

DAV13

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Arizona

Favorite Vacation Destination

Spain

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

5/28/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Italian, American, Chinese Food

Short Description

Foreign ambassador The Honorable Ruth A. Davis (1943 - ) was the first African American female career ambassador and has served in Zaire, Kenya, Japan, Italy and Spain.

Employment

United States Foreign Service

Favorite Color

Beige

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ruth Davis interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ruth Davis lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ruth Davis recalls her mother

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ruth Davis describes her father

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ruth Davis discusses her family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ruth Davis shares childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ruth Davis remembers growing up with her sister

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ruth Davis explains why she was born in Phoenix, Arizona

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ruth Davis recalls her elementary school years

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ruth Davis recounts her high school experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ruth Davis remembers her college aspirations

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ruth Davis explains her decision to attend Spelman College

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ruth Davis shares childhood memories

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ruth Davis recalls her college and graduate years

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ruth Davis discusses the impact of the Civil Rights Movement on global politics

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ruth Davis remembers her introduction to the State Department

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ruth Davis recounts how she became a career ambassador

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ruth Davis describes her travels overseas in the early 1970s

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ruth Davis recalls her work for the State Department in Washington D.C.

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ruth Davis describes overcoming racism as Consul General to Spain

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ruth Davis details her experiences in Benin after gaining her ambassadorship

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ruth Davis recounts her career after returning from Benin

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ruth Davis discusses the lack of minorities in the Foreign Service

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ruth Davis reflects on her life and career

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Photo - Ambassador Ruth Davis is crowned princess of Ketou, Benin, 1994

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Photo - Ruth Davis trains for the Foreign Service, 1991

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Photo - Ruth Davis with Colin Powell at the Foreign Service Institute, Washington, D.C., 2001

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Photo - Ambassador Ruth Davis with Beninese children and parents, Cotonou, Benin, 1993

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Photo - Ruth Davis's mother greets U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Washington, D.C., July 13, 2001

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Photo - Ruth Davis is being sworn in by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Washington D.C., July 13, 2001

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Photo - Ruth Davis with U.S. President George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., 2001

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Photo - Ambassador Ruth Davis visits a family near Ouidah, Benin, ca. 1993

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Photo - Ruth Davis with Pasqual Maragall, Barcelona, Spain, 1990

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Photo - Ambassador Ruth Davis with Benin President Nicéphore Dieudonné Soglo and U.S. President Bill Clinton, Washington, D.C., 1994

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Photo - Ambassador Ruth Davis with Benin First Lady Rosine Soglo and U.S. First Lady Hillary Clinton, Washington, D.C., 1994

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Photo - Ruth Davis with Madeleine Albright at the Foreign Service Institute, Washinton, D.C., 1999

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Photo - Ruth Davis with Colin Powell at the Foreign Service Institute, Washington, D.C., 2001

Tape: 5 Story: 14 - Photo - Ambassador Ruth Davis as liaison to U.S. Vice President Al Gore during his official visit to Benin, 1991

Tape: 5 Story: 15 - Photo - Ambassador Ruth Davis as liaison to Benin President Nicéphore Dieudonné Soglo during his visit to Turner Broadcasting System Headquarters, Atlanta, Georgia, ca. 1994

Tape: 5 Story: 16 - Photo - Ambassador Ruth Davis presents her credentials to Benin President Nicéphore Dieudonné Soglo, Benin, December 1992

Tape: 5 Story: 17 - Photo - Ambassador Ruth Davis reviews Beninese troops, Benin, December 1992

Tape: 5 Story: 18 - Photo - Ambassador Ruth Davis's family celebrating her swearing-in as Ambassador to Benin, October, 1992

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

6$1

DATitle
Ruth Davis recounts how she became a career ambassador
Ruth Davis recalls her work for the State Department in Washington D.C.
Transcript
I want to ask you a question. When you all were there at your, the initial, the initiation class, and, you know, your friend [Edward 'Skip' Ganeim] said, "I'm gonna be an ambassador," were you thinking at that time that you'd be an ambassador too?$$No.$$Why not?$$No, I wasn't thinking that I would be an ambassador. I was thinking that this will be a wonderful experience, and I'm gonna work really hard, and I hope, with all of this competition--the majority of the class, you know, they were white males. And I said, "With all of this competition, boy, I hope I can stay in this play, (laughter), let alone be an ambassador." I just wanted to be able to succeed. But I, I--what, as Skip talked to me about the fact that he was going to be an ambassador, I'm thinking, "I am going to work as hard as I can and be as successful as I can," but it never occurred to me that--it never occurred to me that I would be the ambassador, nor did it ever occur to me that I would become a career ambassador. Now, that is a title that only forty people in the history of the Foreign Service of the United States have had the title of Career Ambassador.$$And what does that mean?$$It simply means that I am one--presently, I am the highest ranked Foreign Service officer at the [U.S.] State Department. We will have a--there're never more than four or five career ambassadors at the same time, that title, who have that title. We will have a board soon, and I will sit on a board to help select others. I'm not sure how many the [U.S.] Secretary [of State] will decide that he wants to appoint, but in, in the history of the Foreign Service, there've only been forty. I am the third African American to have that title, the two before me were Ambassador Terrence Todman who's one of our most distinguished ambassadors, and Ambassador George [Edward] Moose as well. And I am the third woman to have that title.$$And the first African American woman?$$And the first African American woman. My mentor, Mary [A.] Ryan, was one also, and she has helped me much, much through my career, but I am the first African American woman to have that title.$So, after you returned from Italy in 1980, what did you do?$$When I came back from Italy, I felt that what I really needed to do was to get some anchors in the United States. I'd spent most of my adult life overseas. And I decided I wanted to buy a house. I bought a house in Washington [D.C.]. That was an experience as a single woman, and an African American, I'd been saving up my little money. And I remember, I had $30,000 on a down payment for a house. And although I had--that was an appreciable amount of money, I had some real difficulties in buying my house because I was a single woman. I had to get my parents [Anderson and Edith Vertele Mallett Davis] to cosign, the whole business--anyway, I did it. And I also, putting down those roots, decided that I really wanted to learn something about the city that I'd like to live in finally. And I worked as the Special Advisor to the Mayor of Washington, D.C. [Marion Barry], in which I was the, in charge of the sister city relationship between Washington and Dakar [Senegal]. And I worked to make it a more international city. I tried to help integrate the diplomatic core into Washington, into the life of Washington, and was relatively successful at that. Then I went back to the State Department where I, I, having served overseas for so long, I figured I needed to be somewhere that I would really get some knowledge about the State Department. And I went to serve as the senior watch officer in the Operations Center. That's the nerve center of the State Department. And I had fabulous experiences. I had to manage the State Department's response to, and know what was happening all over the world at all times cause we had to keep the Secretary advised. I remember one night we had the assassination of our military attaché in Greece, and at the same time, Benigno Aquino in the Philippines was assassinated. So we had to work on that. Another time I was on duty, the whole, almost the whole of the North Korea--of the South Korean cabinet was wiped out in Burma [now Myanmar] because there was a, an explosion that wiped out most of the official delegation. So there I was at the helm, sort of making sure that all of the right people were notified and, and, you know, the response to these incidents were--was carried out properly. And from the operation center, I went to be in charge of training for our diplomats.

Arthur Fletcher

Civil rights activist and affirmative action champion Arthur A. Fletcher was born in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1924. As a child, Fletcher's parents moved frequently. Fletcher graduated from high school in Junction City, Kansas; from there he attended Washburn University, earning degrees in political science and sociology. Fletcher later went on to earn his law degree and his Ph.D. in education.

Fletcher organized his first civil rights protest while still in high school after being told that African American student photographs would be included in the back of the yearbook. After graduating from high school, Fletcher served in World War II under General George Patton and earned a Purple Heart. Fletcher joined the Los Angeles Rams in 1950 and later became the first African American to play for the Baltimore Colts.

Fletcher entered politics in 1954, when he worked on Fred Hall's gubernatorial campaign, and took a position working for the Kansas Highway Commission; he took the knowledge of government contracts he gained there to encourage African American businesses to bid on contracts. After moving to Washington, Fletcher worked a number of government jobs, eventually becoming the special assistant to the governor in 1969. That same year, President Richard Nixon appointed Fletcher to the office of assistant secretary of wage and labor standards in the Department of Labor. While serving in this capacity, Fletcher devised the Philadelphia Plan, which enforced equal employment and business opportunities for minorities. In 1972, Fletcher joined the United Negro College Fund as executive director, and coined its slogan, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Fletcher later returned to government service when President Gerald Ford appointed him to the office of deputy of urban affairs. In this role, Fletcher came to be known as the father of the affirmative action enforcement movement.

Fletcher was appointed to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 1990, where he served until 1993 as chairman and a commissioner. In 1996, prompted by Senator Bob Dole's reversal of his forty-year affirmative action policy, Fletcher made a run for the presidency; he later became president and CEO of Fletcher's Learning Systems and publisher of USA Tomorrow/The Fletcher Letter.

Fletcher spent a great deal of time touring the country for speaking engagements on equal opportunity rights and the benefits of affirmative action, and served as the chairman of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Fletcher wrote several articles that appeared in magazines such as Ebony and Fortune, in addition to authoring a book entitled My Hour of Power.

Arthur A. Fletcher passed away on July 12, 2005; he was survived by his wife, Bernyce Fletcher.

Accession Number

A2003.111

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/29/2003

Last Name

Fletcher

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

A.

Organizations
Schools

Junction City Junior/Senior High School

Washburn University

LaSalle Extension University

First Name

Arthur

Birth City, State, Country

Phoenix

HM ID

FLE02

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Arizona

Favorite Vacation Destination

Kansas

Favorite Quote

It is a very poor dog that won't wag his own tail.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

12/22/1924

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Potatoes

Death Date

7/12/2005

Short Description

Federal government appointee and foundation chief executive Arthur Fletcher (1924 - 2005 ) was appointed by President Gerald Ford as deputy of urban affairs where he became known as the father of affirmative action. In 1972, Fletcher joined the United Negro College Fund as executive director and coined its slogan, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste."

Employment

Los Angeles Rams, Baltimore Colts

Kansas Highway Commission

Department of Labor

United Negro College Fund

Civil Rights Commission

Favorite Color

Red

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Arthur Fletcher interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Arthur Fletcher's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Arthur Fletcher describes his father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Arthur Fletcher talks about growing up in a military environment

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Arthur Fletcher describes his mother's background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Arthur Fletcher recalls his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Arthur Fletcher talks about his brother

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Arthur Fletcher remembers his childhood in Langston, Oklahoma

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Arthur Fletcher describes the impact of the G.I. Bill of Rights

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Arthur Fletcher talks about his childhood interest in the trumpet and in jazz

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Arthur Fletcher discusses former Buffalo Soldiers

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Arthur Fletcher details his early educational career

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Arthur Fletcher talks about his childhood personality

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Arthur Fletcher remembers being influenced by Mary McLeod Bethune

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Arthur Fletcher discusses his athletic abilities and experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Arthur Fletcher explains the integration policies of Kansas schools in the 1940s

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Arthur Fletcher recalls encountering racism while playing sports in Kansas

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Arthur Fletcher tells of memorable teachers

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Arthur Fletcher remembers his football career at Fort Knox

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Arthur Fletcher talks about his musical involvement in the military

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Arthur Fletcher discusses D-Day and the invasion of Europe during World War II

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Arthur Fletcher details experiences as a combat MP in World War II

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Arthur Fletcher tells of his post-military plans

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Arthur Fletcher explains his decision to attend Washburn University

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Arthur Fletcher discusses his reasons for studying political science

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Arthur Fletcher explains his involvement with the Republican Party

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Arthur Fletcher details his role in the establishment of the Civil Rights Commission

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Arthur Fletcher talks about his professional football career

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Arthur Fletcher recalls the racial climate during his professional football career

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Arthur Fletcher tells of his various career moves after playing professional football

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Arthur Fletcher explains his early political involvement

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Arthur Fletcher talks about his position with the Kansas Highway Commission

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Arthur Fletcher discusses Fred Hall's gubernatorial campaign

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Arthur Fletcher recalls a dark period in his family life

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Arthur Fletcher talks about his successes in educational reform, part 1

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Arthur Fletcher details his successes in educational reform, part 2

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Arthur Fletcher explains his involvement in an urban renewal project

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Arthur Fletcher tells of his campaign for lieutenant governor of Washington

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Arthur Fletcher discusses his position within the Department of Labor

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Arthur Fletcher explains why he revised the Philadelphia Plan

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Arthur Fletcher shares his thoughts on affirmative action

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Arthur Fletcher stresses the importance of continued progress in diversity and affirmative action

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Arthur Fletcher explains the importance of the Community Reinvestment Act

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Arthur Fletcher talks about problems with the Community Reinvestment Act

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Arthur Fletcher talks about his involvement with the United Negro College Fund

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Arthur Fletcher discusses Gerald Ford's commitment to affirmative action

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Arthur Fletcher gives his thoughts on the current status of the Republican Party

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Arthur Fletcher talks about being an African American Republican

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Arthur Fletcher shares his hopes for the black community

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Arthur Fletcher explains how he helps the black community from within the Republican Party

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Arthur Fletcher considers his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Arthur Fletcher reflects on his life

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$6

DAStory

3$5

DATitle
Arthur Fletcher details his role in the establishment of the Civil Rights Commission
Arthur Fletcher explains why he revised the Philadelphia Plan
Transcript
You didn't ask this, but let me make sure that I drive this home. Because we were effective, we tried to get [Dwight D.] Eisenhower to pass a bill creating the, the Civil Rights Commission before he got reelected. We came back here and did our best to get him. He said, no. He wouldn't do that. He'd gone as far as he was gonna go with the, with the Arkansas school thing, okay, desegregating that. After the election, after he got elected, we put the full-court press on again and finally convinced him that the federal government ought to study racism. We finally convinced him he ought to do it, us, plus some others. But it was the Kansas delegation of young black Republicans that came back there, back here and convinced him that he ought to sign legislation creating the Civil Rights Commission. Now, he agreed to do it provided we didn't ask for enforcement powers. We pressed for enforcement powers, but we couldn't get it. Now, he then signed the bill. Now, the significance of signing that bill and a lot of brothers and sisters don't understand, this was the first time, signing that bill was the first time that the federal government in modern time in particular, that the federal government was admitting it had a race problem (laughter), now you see that. Here's the federal government saying, we're going to create an entity to study this, this anathema called race. Now, what was the benefit there? One, it wasn't a P foundation, a non-profit entity trying to convince the government they had a problem. It wasn't the Rockefeller Foundation. It was none of those foundations. Here is a federal government entity saying we need to acknowledge we have this problem, and let's see what its nature, its shape, etcetera, is. He signed it in '57 [1957]. It became the law of the land. We, we came back and worked it real hard to get it done, and he signed it. And we used the fact that the we got the Kansas Fair Employment Practice Commission in existence in his home state to convince him that we ought to study it at the national level. They agreed to do that, and after they agreed to do that, then here comes the riots in the '60s [1960s], okay. And for the first time, the government studied the problem with its own agency, the Civil Rights Commission. They were the ones that came out with the Kerner Re--they were the ones that, that worked with the Kerner [Commission] Report to see to it that it dealt with the problem. Now, had it not been for that, then the chances of the '64 [1964] Civil Rights Act ever becoming the law of the land, it would not have happened. The fact that the '64 [1964] Civil Rights Act became the law of the land is because a federal government agency called the Civil Rights Commission (chuckle), okay, worked with the Kerner Commission to put that report together and justified the need for a '64 [1964] Civil Rights Act. A lot of, a lot of so-called knowledge civil righters don't know that. That's how that happened.$I issued the revised Philadelphia Plan. You say, why was it revised? Because the original Philadelphia Plan had no enforcement measures. It was a volunteer program in which you depend on the contractor's good will to the degree that he'll create or she will create an environment where goodwill will pervade and your coworkers will work with you, in spite of your color or your gender.$$And the Philadelphia Plan had come out of--$$The Philadelphia Plan came out of the [Lyndon B.] Johnson administration.$$Okay.$$Okay, and, again, they knew it was flawed, all right, even though--.$$Who was involved with that? Do you--?$$Who was involved with, with?$$With the original Philadelphia Plan?$$With the original Philadelphia Plan. I think Cliff Alexander had something to do with it, but I'm not sure. But he, it was, he got--when he tried to implement it, the, the--I'll call his name any minute, the, the, not the inspector general. I'll call his name in a minute, killed it. The, the Congress's budget office killed it because they said it violated the quota provisions in Title VII, all right. And for some reason Cliff and, and his brain power or either Willie Wilson with the Labor Department, wouldn't let them put an enforcement provision in it, all right. So when I come along, I clearly understand that if it isn't enforceable, it isn't going anywhere. I also understand that you can't use Title VII of the '64 [1964] Civil Rights Act. You got to use procurement law, and you can use procurement law and get away from the no quota provision by setting aside hours for minorities and women to work, without ever telling the contractor how many minorities and women to hire to work those hours. It's up to him or her to decide. They have to decide, they got to have that portion of the contract finished on a date certain. And there's twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine or a hundred thousand hours in the contract for that particular work, and we provided them with information in the census tracks that they recruited from. We identified the households in which minorities who had met their qualifications lived. How did we know? 'Cause they had gotten money from the Department of Labor to train them. So we didn't tell 'em to hire them and not them where to hook--look. We told them to hire them and here's the census tracks to look in. Now, if they're hired, by the time you finally get there, if some other contractor has beaten you, then you do something else in procurement law. And what is that? You ask for a contract change. It's called a change order. And the change order is based on the fact that when you looked--and they got to give us a report. How many hours you spent looking, what was the salary of the person, that you spent looking and--how many hours and what was his sophistication. How did we measure that? Their--contractors always ask for change orders. So we don't have to go outside that contractor to, to find out what some other contractor did. When's the last time you asked for a train--change order? Well, we asked for a change order because a certain brand of paint that we agreed to put on that wall wasn't on the market when it was time to put it up. So we had to find another brand. And we came and got your permission to find another brand and then we went searching to find that branch, and then we did it. Now, how many hours did you spend searching? What was the skill tech of the professional person doing the searching, and what did you pay him? We want you to compare your seriousness over here with your seriousness or lack of seriousness over here. So a lot of the brothers and sisters had good faith effort. There was a lot of you know what, not so. It is a bonafide part of the contracting process, and if you understand how a contractor, what he has to do to go through the process of proving that he made a good faith effort, you'll see, we only applied contract law in an area that had never been tried before. And, and those contractors who came in and tried to fool us on good faith effort, the minute we made the comparative analysis and then threatened to debar them for five years, from ever contracting again, that's when they got serious. But it was all contract law, had nothing to do with Title VII and fluffy social justice. It's all contract law. And it's all about hours and the amount of money in each contract tied to the hours for paying each craft. That's how it was done and, and [President Richard] Nixon bought into that the minute he realized that it was based on pure procurement contract law and economic equity. We're paying more taxes into the system than we're getting out by way of job opportunity. That's when he bought into it. Otherwise, he would never have bought into it. And that basically is the reason the courts have not killed affirmative action for thirty-three years, and I got a sneaking suspicious they're not gonna kill it this time.