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

Albert N. Thompson, Jr.

Chemist and chemistry professor Albert N. Thompson, Jr. was born October 31, 1946 to Martha Furgess Thompson and Albert Thompson, Sr. in Columbia, South Carolina, (Richland County). His mother was an elementary school teacher and his father was a college professor. After attending Savannah Kay Elementary and William Miller Jr. High Schools, Thompson attended and graduated from Phillis Wheatley, Sr. High School in Houston, Texas in 1964. He received his B.S. degree in chemistry and his M.S. degree in inorganic chemistry from Texas Southern University in 1973 and 1975, respectively. Thompson served as an instructor of physical science and chemistry at Houston Community College and Texas Southern University between 1974 and 1975. He earned his Ph.D. degree in inorganic chemistry from Howard University in 1979. He then became an assistant professor of chemistry at Fisk University.

Thompson served as an assistant professor of chemistry at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina. In 1981, he did a faculty research fellowship at the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine at Brooks Air Force Base, Texas before being hired as a professor at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. Thompson served as a visiting professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1990. In 2011, Thompson earned a promotion to chair Spelman College’s Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

Thompson has received funding and co-funding from several research and educational grants from organizations such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), United States Air Force, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Department of Energy and the United States Army. Thompson has also served as a research and program proposal consultant to the NSF, NASA, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), NIH, Quality Education for Minorities (QEM) and Project Kaleidoscope organizations. A member of the University of Chicago James Franck Institute NSF Materials Research Center Visiting Advisory Committee, Thompson is an advocate for minority student training in science and research careers. He organized and is involved with the American Chemical Society’s sponsored summer research program for Atlanta area high school students, Project SEED.

Thompson is a member of the American Chemical Society Beta Kappa Chi Scientific Honor Society and the Sigma Pi Sigma Physics Honor Society. He was also featured in an Ebony magazine article on Spelman College. In 2011, he received a distinguished alumni award from the School of Science and Technology at Texas Southern University. Thompson has two children, Amber and Tayloir. He resides in Atlanta, Georgia.

Albert N. Thompson, Jr. was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 20, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.072

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/20/2012

Last Name

Thompson

Middle Name

N.

Schools

Texas Southern University

Blackshear Elementary School

Kay Granger Elelemtary School

Phillis Wheatley High School

Howard University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Albert

Birth City, State, Country

Columbia

HM ID

THO17

Favorite Season

Fall

Sponsor

National Science Foundation

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

If you knew the answers, you couldn't call it research.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

10/31/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Shrimp

Short Description

Chemistry professor and chemist Albert N. Thompson, Jr. (1946 - ) is chair of Spelman College’s Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. He has garnered several research grants from prestigious organizations in the field of porphyrin chemistry such as the National Science Foundation.

Employment

Spelman College

University of Wisconsin, Madison

Fayetteville State University

United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine

Fisk University

Texas Southern University

Houston Community College

Main Sponsor
Main Sponsor URL
Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
0,0:650,3:1460,40:8080,133:9752,151:10368,159:11248,181:11776,187:14800,207:15540,221:16872,248:18870,291:22770,350:27390,481:28230,560:36363,643:37674,669:38433,682:38916,691:39468,700:39882,707:53355,989:54030,999:57855,1065:58230,1071:59055,1084:62430,1159:62730,1164:72360,1267:94384,1497:94798,1505:95626,1524:98662,1570:99076,1577:99421,1583:99835,1590:102526,1641:102871,1647:106090,1668:108090,1690:115766,1759:117131,1773:118132,1789:123683,1866:125958,1935:128598,1953:130515,2008:131580,2032:136621,2162:136905,2167:142260,2225:143050,2240:145736,2298:146289,2306:148422,2358:152925,2440:159900,2504:160320,2511:160740,2518:171674,2684:177450,2835:177906,2842:189069,3034:189464,3040:192020,3104:199140,3268:200993,3289:208164,3357:210018,3394:211610,3409$0,0:3944,31:4476,40:5008,49:5768,57:7972,104:8656,114:9340,124:10328,177:10784,184:11924,193:12836,277:14280,338:14584,343:20830,387:24508,403:29408,513:38510,705:38918,712:39190,719:39870,729:40142,734:40958,747:41502,756:45786,871:60250,1060:61729,1086:62512,1099:62860,1104:64513,1136:78128,1230:79848,1258:80880,1275:82514,1307:83546,1324:85352,1350:86384,1359:89566,1417:89910,1422:94730,1432:107414,1647:108195,1661:108621,1668:109118,1678:113570,1726:113874,1731:115546,1760:117218,1789:119194,1842:119954,1857:128815,1962:140580,2136:142380,2225:152692,2492:152976,2497:154041,2520:154751,2533:155461,2549:155958,2557:161283,2673:161993,2688:168980,2776
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Albert Thompson, Jr.'s interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Albert Thompson, Jr. shares his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Albert Thompson, Jr. discusses his mother's family history

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Albert Thompson, Jr. discusses his father's family history

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Albert Thompson, Jr. talks about his father's education and involvement in a Civil Rights lawsuit

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Albert Thompson, Jr. talks about his parents and his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Albert Thompson, Jr. describes his earliest childhood memory of moving to Houston, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Albert Thompson, Jr. explains the Green Book and African American travel

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Albert Thompson, Jr. shares the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Albert Thompson, Jr. talks about the advantages of growing up near Texas Southern University

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Albert Thompson, Jr. talks about his father as a professor at Texas Southern University

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Albert Thompson, Jr. talks about his social and academic experience in elementary school

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Albert Thompson, Jr. discusses his exposure to science and chemistry

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Albert Thompson, Jr. discusses different junior high schools and high schools in Houston, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Albert Thompson, Jr. talks about his experience at Phyllis Wheatley High School in Houston, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Albert Thompson, Jr. relates his experience with the Civil Rights Movement growing up in Houston, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Albert Thompson, Jr. discusses his early college and military experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Albert Thompson, Jr. talks about his mentor Ray Wilson

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Albert Thompson, Jr. talks about Dr. Lloyd Ferguson and his decision to attend Howard University for his Ph.D. degree

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Albert Thompson, Jr. talks about his experience as a doctoral student at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Albert Thompson, Jr. talks about his path to becoming a professor at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Albert Thompson, Jr. describes his experience as a faculty research fellow at the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Albert Thompson, Jr. talks about Spelman College's reputation and his National Science Foundation proposal

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Albert Thompson, Jr. discusses his visiting professorship at the University of Wisconsin, Madison

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Albert Thompson, Jr. talks about his involvement with minority serving STEM programs

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Albert Thompson, Jr. explains his publication,'Effect of Halogenations of the Nonlinear Optical Properties of Porphyrin and Substituted Porphyrins'

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Albert Thompson, Jr. discusses various publication, grants and awards

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Albert Thompson, Jr. discusses Spelman College's 'Ebony Magazine' feature and its resources

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Albert Thompson, Jr. discusses his STEM philosophy

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Albert Thompson, Jr. relates his appointment to department chair at Spelman College back to his high school experience in Houston, Texas

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Albert Thompson, Jr. discusses his vision for Spelman College and his hopes and concerns for African Americans in the STEM fields

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Albert Thompson, Jr. talks about his career legacy and his family

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Albert Thompson, Jr. shares how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Albert Thompson, Jr. describes his photos

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$3

DAStory

5$3

DATitle
Albert Thompson, Jr. talks about his father's education and involvement in a Civil Rights lawsuit
Albert Thompson, Jr. describes his experience as a faculty research fellow at the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine
Transcript
My father [Albert Nelson Thompson, Sr.] finished Tuskegee Institute [now Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, Alabama] in 1940. He was in education, and he started teaching in Columbia, South Carolina. Not long after, he was very young when he went to college, I think fifteen. He was probably nineteen when he came out. He had difficult finding a job because he looked young, very young, but I remember my grandmother [Ella Evelyn Lewis Thompson] telling me that the superintendent would not hire him because he looked like a boy. And my grandmother also said that this superintendent didn't even have a college degree himself (laughter). My father ended up getting a teaching job with the Columbia school system. That's how he and my mother [Martha Viola Furgess Thompson] met. But in 1944, my father, with the assistance of the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People], filed a lawsuit because there was unequal teacher pay during that period. And this was happening around the country. Their counsel was Thurgood Marshall, but the local attorney who handled it was Lawyer [Harold R.] Boulware. And I always heard my parents talk about him. Well, anyway--$$What was his name again?$$Boulware, B-O-U-L-W-A-R-E. I can't think of his first name, but he handled a lot of Civil Rights cases.$$B-O-W--I'm sorry.$$No, B-O-U-L-W-A-R-E.$$U-L--$$It might be an "E" in Boulware, something. I don't think it's W-E-L-L. I think it's Boulware, right. And whenever we went back to South Carolina--we left in 1950, late '49 [1949], '50 [1950], my father would always take us up there to the courthouse and tell us the story about his court case that he did win. The judge was J. Waites Waring, who was the same judge in South Carolina that ruled on that '54 [1954] decision, 'Briggs versus Clarendon County,' you know, and then there was the Topeka [Brown versus Board of Education, 1954] case and the Virginia case. And we all know that the South Carolina case should have been the first one on the docket because Briggs comes before Brown alphabetically. And the story goes that Strom Thurmond [James Strom Thurmond], you know, cut a deal because he didn't want South Carolina to be known. Well, some, some, by default, my father and mother had to leave South Carolina because they could no longer get employment there, probably because my father was a member of the NAACP. And, you know, that was outlawed at that time. And, you know, I've heard my grandmother say, well, things always happen and you have to move on. So my father went, taught for a year in rural South Carolina. Again, we lived in Johnston, South Carolina, right in the same county where Edgefield [South Carolina] is, Strom Thurman's county (laughter), Edgefield County, Edgefield, South Carolina. Then he went on to get a masters degree from NYU [New York University, New York, New York] in the late '40s [1940s]. My sister was actually born in New York City [New York] at Harlem Hospital. And then he took the teaching job at Texas Southern [Texas Southern University, Houston, Texas]. And then some years later, he eventually finished his doctorate degree at the University of Pittsburgh [Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania]. And he retired from Texas Southern after teaching there fifty years (laughter). So in 19-, I guess '99 [1999], somewhere in that time period was when he retired from Texas Southern.$Okay, we also have a note here that you became a faculty research fellow at the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine [San Antonio, Texas]. Is that--$$Yes, that summer before I left Fayetteville [Fayetteville State University, Fayetteville, North Carolina] and came to Spelman [Spelman College, Atlanta, Georgia], I spent that summer in San Antonio, Texas. And so I did research with a Texas Southern [Texas Southern University, Houston, Texas] grad who did his masters under Lloyd Woods and Ray Wilson was his teacher also. His name was Dr. Lovelady, which is very interesting (laughter).$$(Laughter) Dr. Lovelady.$$Lovelady, yes, and--$$Is there a story behind his name?$$No, that's a family name. He's from very close to Dr. Wilson's area, Giddings, Texas. That's where Dr. Wilson is from. There is a Lovelady, Texas, but it's in East, Texas. In fact, when he would call me at Spelman, we had a switchboard operator. We didn't have direct calls, and the switchboard operator stopped me one day. And she said, "There's a Dr. Lovelady calling you and leaving a message. Is that really his name?" I said, yes, that is his name. So were looking at porphyrins as a detector for Hydrazine. Hydrazine is a chemical that's used in jet engines. If the engine flames out, they need to start it up very quickly, and Hydrazine is there to start it up very quickly instead of the fuel. But it's a very toxic and possibly a carcinogen. So they needed a way to detect leakages. And so we were looking at different compounds that could maybe form colors, and they could know if the Hydrazine was leaking or something 'cause the people on the flight path, you know, were exposed to that. So, and, you know, they also looked at other medical research there. There was a centrifuge, 'cause, you know, the pilots had to come there every so often and get retraining and experience, you know, several G's of force, things of that nature. And, in fact, I met a German scientist there, and I can't think of his name, but he was a German from World War II who came over and helped set up that School of Aerospace Medicine, just like [Wernher] Von Braun [German born rocket scientist/aerospace engineer] did, you know, come in Huntsville [Alabama].$$Hermann Oberth [Austro-Hungarian-born German physicist and engineer considered one of the founding fathers of rocketry and astronautics]and--$$Yes, so I met him, and I actually have a book where he signed his name, you know. But that place is shut down. I think it was taken over by a private company in San Antonio [Texas]. But I know the Air Force no longer runs it. Brook Air Force Base was a non-flight place. It was just a research facility. They had some old flight paths there, but they never used it.