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

Walter A. Hill

Agricultural engineer Walter A. Hill was born on August 9, 1946 in New Brunswick, New Jersey. His mother was a school teacher, and his father, a minister of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Hill’s high academic performance in high school earned him a scholarship to attend Lake Forest College in Illinois, where he received his B.S. degree in chemistry in 1968. He continued his studies on a Ford Foundation fellowship at the University of Chicago, where he received his M.A. degree in chemistry in 1970. Hill went on to earn his M.S. in soil chemistry at the University of Arizona in 1973, and his Ph.D. degree in agronomy and environmental chemistry from the University of Illinois College of Agriculture in 1978.

Upon receiving his M.A. degree, Hill spent several years teaching chemistry and general science in the Chicago Public School system. Following the completion of his Ph.D. degree, Hill moved to Alabama to teach soil science at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University). There, he encouraged his students to engage in research projects, and, in 1980, his teaching was honored when he was named a Danforth Associate. Hill has served in several positions at Tuskegee, including director of 1890 Land Grant Research and Extension Programs, the George Washington Carver Agricultural Experiment Station, founder and director of the Carver Integrative Sustainability Center and project director of the Wal-Mart Foundation-sponsored Sustainable Agriculture Consortium for Historically Disadvantaged Farmers. In 2012, Hill was appointed dean of the College of Agriculture, Environment & Nutrition Sciences at Tuskegee University.

Hill has authored journal articles, books and academic conference proceedings on plant-environment relationships for sustainable agriculture and advanced life support systems, and on small and historically disadvantaged farmer and rural community development at. In 2008, he served as the co-editor of Access & Equity Issues in Agricultural & Rural Development. Hill has also been active in the local farming community. He is founder and co-leader of the Alabama Agricultural Land Grant Alliance, and the Black Belt Family Farm Fruit & Vegetable Marketing and Innovation Center. In 2001, he received an honorary doctorate from Lake Forest College.

Walter Andrew Hill was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 15, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.248

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/15/2012

Last Name

Hill

Maker Category
Middle Name

A

Schools

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

University of Arizona School of Law

University of Chicago

Lake Forest College

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Walter

Birth City, State, Country

New Brunswick

HM ID

HIL15

Favorite Season

All Seasons Except Winter

State

New Jersey

Favorite Vacation Destination

Jamaica

Favorite Quote

To God be the glory.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Alabama

Birth Date

8/9/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Tuskegee

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Sweet Potatoes, Greens

Short Description

Agricultural engineer Walter A. Hill (1946 - ) is the dean of the College of Agriculture, Environment & Nutrition Sciences at Tuskegee University.

Employment

Tuskegee University

Favorite Color

Beige, Brown

Timing Pairs
0,0:1233,29:2535,35:4535,52:4960,58:6745,83:7170,89:9975,136:13885,217:18304,243:21268,302:26436,456:36048,577:43361,768:43929,777:45917,828:46414,836:46769,843:47195,850:52778,876:53930,898:55466,930:56106,942:57578,994:59242,1026:65698,1092:69346,1160:70942,1175:71398,1185:72006,1194:72310,1199:76330,1215:76750,1223:78526,1233:82261,1280:82759,1287:83340,1297:87158,1362:94216,1412:95389,1436:97804,1505:98494,1517:99529,1538:100150,1556:100495,1562:110600,1701:116390,1776:116950,1787:117720,1812:118210,1821:119820,1860:122270,1914:122970,1930:123250,1935:128222,1988:131894,2069:136780,2104:137080,2110:144094,2138:145256,2163:146003,2175:146418,2181:146916,2198:147580,2213:148327,2232:149655,2253:154069,2291:160014,2359:162062,2405:162382,2411:164302,2458:166030,2490:167054,2524:174893,2605:176189,2632:177242,2652:177971,2663:179348,2687:179915,2696:185099,2781:185666,2789:185990,2794:186314,2799:187043,2810:195920,2883:201240,2950:204040,3002:208154,3034:208444,3040:218861,3204:226000,3308$0,0:4655,47:4923,52:6866,96:7670,113:9010,144:9345,150:11660,160:12199,169:14836,186:15148,191:15460,196:18172,232:18976,245:19378,252:20651,275:22570,297:23046,309:24134,329:24474,335:25222,349:25494,354:26174,365:29030,424:31310,429:31958,439:33821,471:34388,480:36899,520:39491,553:40220,566:40544,571:41273,583:41759,591:44189,628:44594,634:45161,642:46133,657:49520,663:49828,668:50367,677:50675,682:51676,707:55526,793:55911,800:56604,810:58760,842:59530,858:63680,876:64681,892:66837,922:67838,938:68454,947:69763,974:70687,987:73921,1037:79968,1104:80238,1110:82992,1127:83784,1146:85152,1172:85872,1185:86880,1205:87888,1235:88968,1258:89760,1274:91056,1312:91632,1322:93504,1374:95376,1419:101058,1452:102384,1479:103554,1506:103866,1512:106324,1522:109108,1573:111220,1582:113328,1630:113668,1637:114076,1643:114552,1651:115776,1675:116048,1680:116388,1686:118020,1725:118292,1731:118564,1736:120604,1780:121284,1791:121896,1801:125339,1814:125704,1820:128551,1872:129062,1887:129427,1893:130960,1927:131544,1933:132420,1947:133442,1965:134829,1987:135486,1997:135778,2002:136873,2020:137676,2032:138187,2041:138479,2046:139574,2088:146542,2137:147532,2157:148192,2169:150370,2215:150832,2224:151822,2249:152350,2259:152614,2265:152878,2270:163039,2345:166466,2378:166994,2385:173520,2432:174288,2442:174960,2450:189250,2595:189850,2604:194500,2715:196580,2725
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Walter A. Hill's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Walter A. Hill lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Walter A. Hill describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Walter A. Hill describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Walter A. Hill talks about his father's family and his ministry

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Walter A. Hill talks about his father's growing up and education

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Walter A. Hill talks about how his parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Walter A. Hill describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Walter A. Hill talks about his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Walter A. Hill describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Walter A. Hill describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Walter A. Hill talks about his interest in sports

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Walter A. Hill talks about his interest in science growing up

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Walter A. Hill talks about his high school teachers

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Walter A. Hill talks about his extracurricular activities

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Walter A. Hill talks about growing up in North Little Rock, Arkansas

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Walter A. Hill talks about his decision to attend Lake Forest College

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Walter A. Hill talks about his experience at Lake Forest College

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Walter A. Hill talks about the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Walter A. Hill talks about his experience at the University of Chicago

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Walter A. Hill talks about the importance of groups

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Walter A. Hill talks about his experience teaching in Chicago

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Walter A. Hill talks about his developing interest in agriculture

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Walter A. Hill talks about his experience at the University of Arizona

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Walter A. Hill talks about his mentors at the University of Arizona

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Walter A. Hill talks about his decision to pursue his Ph.D. degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Walter A. Hill talks about his decision to join the faculty at Tuskegee University

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Walter A. Hill talks about his experience at Tuskegee University

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Walter A. Hill talks about Tuskegee University's science funding

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Walter A. Hill talks about Tuskegee University's department of agriculture

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Walter A. Hill talks about George Washington Carver's impact on the agriculture department

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Walter A. Hill talks about his research with sweet potatoes - part one

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Walter A. Hill talks about his research with sweet potatoes - part two

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Walter A. Hill talks about the politics of farming - part one

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Walter A. Hill talks about the politics of farming - part two

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Walter A. Hill talks about the politics of farming - part three

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Walter A. Hill talks about the politics of farming - part four

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Walter A. Hill talks about his students at Tuskegee University

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Walter A. Hill talks about his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Walter A. Hill talks about his volunteer activities

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Walter A. Hill talks about the Southern Food Systems Education Consortium

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Walter A. Hill talks about his graduate students

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Walter A. Hill reflects upon his career

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Walter A. Hill reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Walter A. Hill talks about his family

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Walter A. Hill talks about how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

6$6

DAStory

1$4

DATitle
Walter A. Hill talks about the politics of farming - part one
Walter A. Hill talks about the politics of farming - part four
Transcript
Well, once we succeeded with sweet potato, that's a sugar crop that became the key sugar crop, because out of that you can sweeten your products. And we didn't have sugar cane and other crops there. Now was the oil crop. And peanut had the possibility because they had dwarf varieties that wouldn't take up a lot of volume if we could get the yield, etc., so we took on peanuts for NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration], and we were very successful. We had to learn peanuts peg, just like sweet potato grows underground, you had to figure out how to trigger that root. Well, we had to figure out how to get the peanuts to peg then they form the nut, you know. So, that again, took a lot of creativity in terms of the mesh and how we had to do the physical design, so we did a lot of trial and error, and we came up with a system that worked. So, we--not only did we develop a system for sweet potato, but we developed a system for peanuts. We got very good yields out of that. So that's published work also. So those are our two major contributions then NASA went to herbal crops. Where can we go in the next space flight that can go right now? We still are stocking with food, so we did several different plants and have published now in the different herbal crops and some of our team has done that work. And right in the middle of that is when NASA started closing down. But what we've done, we kept the work going. If we have a chance we could take you out to our growth chambers to show you how we kept that. And if you think about it, you're providing not only the nutrition but the light, and you're supplying the atmosphere, so you have a closed environment, so that allows you to measure any variables you want. So we have a beautiful system for thinking, even globally, where we might be in changing the environmental system and dealing with any kind of plant. And so we decided to keep that capability and keep looking for opportunities to use that expertise as we go on. We have an extensive set of green houses and growth chambers to do this kind of work. Where we're shifting to now, it's good to do science, it's great to do great work that has an impact, and of course science and technology has a big impact on our economy. Our challenge became, the one that Carver could not finish, during Carver's time, even though he developed the jesup wagon--and along with Thomas Campbell and the others, helped to start the cooperative extension system, which would go out in the communities, help the farmers, learn how to grow better and produce a market and take care of the land, and this kind of thing, because of segregation, because of slavery, segregation, Jim Crowism and general oppression, stealing of land and all that whole history that cuts across the whole south, Carver was never--when he wrote to Booker T., he said, "I'm coming to help our people"; he put that in two letters. You'll go back and you'll see the reason why I'm coming is to help our people. And you think about what he did for peanuts, yeah, he helped the peanut industry survive, but if you look at the number of black farmers growing peanuts, it's hardly any. There was a politics in terms of who could grow the peanuts and who could have the quotas, so all that came into it.$I think my whole life kind of set me up to get back into those rural communities so those young people could see where if they worked the land, smart about it, they can actually develop some very good businesses. We're looking for multimillion dollar businesses that can be sustainable. And our role in the University is to be their research arm, just like a new product is developed where competitors come in, you got to keep adding to that, you know, innovating, get that new product. So, now the role for Carver's university for the HBCUs for our science, our best brains, not just do research that ends up going up where those already making all the money take that and make more, just put it in the generic pool and then those who have the resources take it and move with it. But you have a conscious connection of your best science minds trying to work and use nano technology, use biotechnology, use irrigation technology, use computer technology, use all of our expertise in engineering, etc., etc., to actually help build a community, and then keep it viable and tie directly to prepare the young people. I could show you slides of once we got this business rolling, the young men and young women were there. You didn't have to go ask them to come, how can I help, they're getting in there to put labels on packaging, they're getting in there helping to move boxes, they're getting in there, all this is great, hey, can I--how can I get more involved in this, you know. Parents are talking good, public is good, even--I'll just say this, the legislature of Alabama, which again, we're trying to get our one-to-one match, which someday we'll get that and it's some great people there who have helped us in the past, they came up with two million dollars to build a processing packaging facility for these farmers and the ground will be broken for that next year, and then right outside of Selma, there will be a major packaging and staging plant for distribution of these crop. So that shows you, if our legislature will see that economic piece to invest in that, they'll invest more in the future and the return will be great to all of the citizens of Alabama. So I applaud those legislatures who took the leadership and did that, thank you very, very much.$$Okay.$$Sorry about that.$$This is in Selma [Alabama]? Is there any particular representative that's really been an advocate for you?$$Yeah. I'm thinking about the current politics.$$Okay. All right. Yes, sir.$$I was screening as I talked, but there are definitely some.$$Yes.$$I want to make sure I say all of the names at once so I get it right. So that will be another thing I'll give you.$$Okay. All right, we won't sweat you on that then.

Essex Finney

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.

Accession Number

A2012.154

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/13/2012

Last Name

Finney

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

E.

Schools

Pine Hill Elementary School

Pocahontas High School

Virginia Polytechnic Institute

Pennsylvania State University

Michigan State University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Essex

Birth City, State, Country

Powhatan County

HM ID

FIN03

Favorite Season

May, October

State

Virginia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Bermuda

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

5/16/1937

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Agricultural engineer Essex Finney (1937 - ) a pioneer in the field of agricultural engineering, led a thirty-year career with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Employment

United States Military

United States Department of Agriculture

Office of the Science Advisor to the President

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
0,0:3461,18:4189,24:4826,33:7192,60:9285,95:11833,144:12561,153:16068,163:16940,172:17703,222:18139,227:21000,307:21910,322:22400,330:23030,344:23870,349:24220,355:27879,394:30452,434:30867,440:33038,451:33731,462:34501,474:36432,494:36918,506:37134,511:37404,518:38430,540:43221,589:43757,598:44494,612:45164,625:46169,641:46705,650:48715,702:49318,713:49921,723:50256,729:50792,738:51060,743:54724,760:57348,794:58578,807:59152,815:59480,820:60546,836:68358,913:69090,932:69578,941:70249,955:70493,960:70920,968:72506,1024:73482,1038:74641,1062:75129,1071:75495,1078:79330,1097:79610,1102:79890,1107:80450,1118:83250,1169:84990,1176:86082,1191:87170,1204:87810,1218:88514,1234:90434,1275:95485,1340:98280,1368:98536,1373:101032,1423:101544,1433:102120,1445:102632,1454:103464,1472:103720,1477:103976,1482:104424,1490:105448,1513:105960,1522:106600,1540:108328,1595:109096,1609:112490,1619:113714,1642:114326,1657:115091,1673:115499,1682:123346,1751:123594,1756:123904,1762:124276,1770:124524,1797:126322,1831:126570,1836:127934,1878:128244,1884:128864,1898:131096,1947:131406,1953:132088,1967:133018,1983:133948,2001:134382,2009:136366,2046:143992,2117:152790,2220:153756,2228:156654,2253:157482,2260:158998,2285:159550,2292:160102,2300:162126,2327:167857,2381:168093,2386:178646,2530:179348,2546:179618,2552:180050,2561:180266,2569:185666,2712:185990,2719:188786,2730:189314,2737:189842,2758:190722,2775:193897,2818:194173,2826:201487,2975:202522,2991:203074,3000:203971,3016:204523,3025:208984,3046:210048,3062:210808,3073:213227,3087:214517,3099:216390,3111:216750,3118:217290,3129:218010,3142:218970,3165:219450,3174:219810,3185:220170,3192:220590,3200:221070,3209:221550,3219:222030,3232:223170,3254:223410,3259:224670,3287:224970,3294:226230,3320:228090,3362:232640,3393:232888,3398:233322,3406:234624,3431:235058,3442:235554,3451:235802,3456:236050,3461:236298,3466:236856,3476:237538,3490:239660,3500:240353,3509:240738,3515:241585,3528:242817,3551:247745,3629:249131,3649:250825,3671:254950,3683:255502,3692:256606,3716:259297,3777:259642,3783:260746,3802:261367,3812:262057,3826:263092,3838:266314,3853:268610,3873:269930,3896:270854,3912:272702,3945:273494,3959:276332,4013:277058,4025:277652,4037:277982,4043:282353,4078:282724,4087:283095,4094:283731,4112:284049,4120:284473,4130:285056,4145:285480,4151:286222,4163:286487,4169:286858,4178:287282,4187:289243,4229:289879,4244:290091,4249:290462,4258:293750,4268:294290,4280:294590,4286:296360,4315$0,0:6526,105:8820,162:9316,173:10060,195:14211,252:14940,264:15264,269:15912,277:17694,305:18585,319:19557,332:26706,436:28500,465:36036,571:38950,594:39415,600:41182,621:46064,704:46878,718:47470,727:48284,740:51143,792:51679,801:52148,809:53488,831:54158,842:54828,853:56570,896:56905,902:60671,920:65016,998:67623,1039:69519,1067:73290,1077:77608,1116:80680,1136:80992,1141:82942,1177:83644,1187:84736,1204:85204,1212:86530,1235:87856,1263:89884,1286:101140,1368:101788,1378:102076,1387:102724,1397:103228,1406:103660,1413:104308,1425:107692,1501:123740,1751
DAStories

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

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$6

DAStory

9$1

DATitle
Essex Finney describes his early years at the U.S. Department of Agriculture
Essex Finney talks about Malcolm Thompson at the Agricultural Research Service
Transcript
Now how did you I guess find out about the position or get, come to you know work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture [USDA]?$$When I was in graduate school at Michigan State [University, East Lansing, Michigan] and at Penn State [Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pennsylvania], there was a publication, a journal that came out each month called 'Agricultural Engineering'. In that particular issue was a--each issue would have a, an article on advances in instrumentation and that was an area that I wanted to work in was instrumentation. And so Carl Norris who was the research leader or the chief of the instrumentation research laboratory in Beltsville [Maryland] was the one who edited and published these articles each month. So I had followed Carl Norris' career, his publications through that magazine and so when I finished at Michigan State, I knew I had to go into military service. While I was in the military service I had made contact with Carl Norris, sent him a letter and indicated I was interested in working in his lab if a position became available. So the last year that I was there, Carl Norris wrote to me and said--sent me a letter inviting me to apply. So I applied for a position in his laboratory and he accepted. By the way, while I was at Rocky Mountain Arsenal [Denver, Colorado], we did have a couple of scientists from Beltsville who would come and consult and give us advice on some of our research projects so I had also made contact through the Beltsville research programs, through those scientists who had been at Beltsville. So I was successful in getting a position at Beltsville working in the instrumentation research laboratory under Carl Norris.$$Okay, all right. So this, so now you were here, this is here, where we are today?$$Where we are today, yeah.$$In the same building or this is a--?$$I worked in the south building, the building adjacent to us. On the far end of that first floor was the instrumentation research lab so I started work in the, Carl Norris' laboratory complex in the building right to the south of us.$$Okay. And you were basically on this site for twenty-five years, right?$$I started work at Beltsville in '65 [1965] and I retired from USDA in '95 [1995], thirty years and Beltsville has always been my home. I was at Beltsville from '63 [1963] to '73 [1973] and I went away for one year when I was a mid-career fellow at Princeton [University, Princeton, New Jersey] for one year, came back to Beltsville. And then in 1987, I was assigned to the North Atlantic area in Philadelphia [Pennsylvania] so I went up to Philadelphia for two years then came back to Beltsville. So basically I've been at Beltsville for thirty years. My entire career had been here with a couple of exceptions.$$Okay. All right, now kind of walk us through what your initial assignment was and how you, you know--?$$At Beltsville?$$Yes, right.$$Okay, my initial assignment at Beltsville was in the instrumentation research laboratory as a research engineer. And I was responsible for developing equipment for sorting and testing the market quality of agricultural products. There was a division called the market quality research division, that was the division I was in and that division was concerned with once a product is developed on a farm, how do you transport it, how do you store it, how do you market it with optimum quality? And one of the quality of products that they were concerned about was the texture. That is, after products are harvested they tend to soften, it gets flabby and it ultimately will rot. So I was asked to develop instrumentation for automatic sorting and testing the textural quality, the texture of products, the hardness, the firmness, the roughness. How do these products behave in marketing channels? So that was my project. So I developed what they call sonic resonation, sonic resonance techniques for non-destructively measuring the texture or the hardness, the firmness of agricultural products so that was my first product that I was working on. So that was what I involved in and I wrote a number of papers, one of which received an award from the American Society of Agricultural Engineers for the quality of the work that was done. So that was my first responsibility at Beltsville.$One of the scientists I wanted to comment about and I think is worth putting on the record is an African American scientist who was here when I came and had been here for a number of years. His name was Malcolm Thompson. Malcolm Thompson as far as I know is the only African American scientist who is a member of the Agricultural Research Services [ARS agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture] Hall of Fame. The Agricultural Research Service has its hall of fame which is for the top one or two percent of the scientists in the agency. Malcolm Thompson was trained in chemistry. He got his early training from Xavier University [of Louisiana], in Louisiana [New Orleans, Louisiana]. He worked for a while for the National Institute of Health [NIH] and came to Beltsville [Maryland] as a research chemist working in the insect physiology laboratory which is a pioneering laboratory. It does basic research. And he probably is one of the top scientists, he is one of the top scientists in the agency. He's passed away now but he did research on identifying the chemicals that are important in the life span of insects.$$Hmm.$$Now that might not sound important but it is extremely important if you want to control the insect and control the insect in a way that is not harmful to other live animals or is not harmful to plants. So he had identified a number of chemicals that are extracted from the insect that can be used in developing insect control methods. So I'm not going to say anymore about it but I just wanted to put him on the record as one of the top African American scientists and top scientists in the agency itself. And he worked at Beltsville, very highly regarded.$$Okay yeah and this is Malcolm Thompson?$$Malcolm Thompson.