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

Lafayette Frederick

Botanist Lafayette Frederick was born on March 9, 1923 in Dog Bog, Mississippi. Frederick’s interest in botany began as an undergraduate student at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) where he was inspired by the famous botanist and plant chemist George Washington Carver. After earning his B.S. degree in biology from Tuskegee Institute in 1943 and his M.S. degree in botany from the University of Rhode Island in 1950, Frederick went on to graduate from Washington State University with his Ph.D. degree in plant pathology and botany. His doctoral thesis focused on spore development in fungi, systematics and ecology of the myxomycetes, and the Dutch elm disease.

Upon completion of his postdoctoral studies at Cornell University, the University of Illinois and the University of Michigan, Fredrick was hired as an assistant professor at Southern University in the biology department. There, he developed a botany concentration during his ten years at the school. He also developed a botany concentration at Atlanta University, where he chaired the biology department during his fourteen-year tenure. In 1958, Frederick was responsible for integrating the Association of Southeastern Biologists meeting, which had not allowed its African American members to attend. He also served as director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Academic Year Institute for Science Teachers. Frederick worked on several projects that involved studies on antifungal substances of a strain of bacterium. In 1976, Frederick was hired by Howard University where he went on to serve as a professor and chairman in the department of botany, acting dean for the College of Liberal Arts, and emeritus professor of biology.

Among Frederick’s honors are an Honorary Doctorate of Science degree in botany and a Distinguished Alumni Award, from the University of Rhode Island; the Botanical Society of America Merit Award; the NSF Education and Human Resources Directorate Lifetime Achievement Award; the American Association for the Advancement of Science Lifetime Mentor Award; and a Tuskegee Institute Distinguished Alumni Merit Award. A species of Hawaiian shrub, Cyrtandra Frederickii, was named in his honor by Harold St. John, former chairman of the University of Hawaii department of botany.

Lafayette Fredrick was interviewed on The HistoryMakers on December 12, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.255

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/15/2012

Last Name

Frederick

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Schools

Dunbar Elementary School

Vashon High School

Hayti High School

Washington High School

Tuskegee University

University of Hawaii

Rhode Island State College

Washington State University

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

University of Michigan

Cornell University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Lafayette

Birth City, State, Country

Dog Bog

HM ID

FRE07

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii

Favorite Quote

A Wise Old Owl Lived In An Oak. The More He Saw The Less He Spoke. The Less He Spoke The More He Heard. Why Can't We All Be Like That Wise Old Bird?

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Alabama

Birth Date

3/19/1923

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Tuskegee

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fish

Short Description

Botanist Lafayette Frederick (1923 - ) developed the concentration in botany at Southern University and Atlanta University, and is professor emeritus in botany at Howard University.

Employment

Kaiser Shipbuilding Co.

United States Navy

Southern University

Atlanta University

Howard University

Central State University

Tuskegee University

Favorite Color

Brown

Timing Pairs
0,0:29852,242:36160,381:55144,620:62314,701:65034,791:74470,880:74914,888:75210,893:75876,902:83957,1040:100236,1256:102153,1346:104070,1414:119238,1664:123236,1683:123803,1691:137330,1912:137816,1919:138464,1928:150002,2075:162446,2213:167069,2328:169001,2375:182580,2564:206170,2801$0,0:26272,333:29224,375:35932,490:37244,501:75136,969:79764,1042:83057,1082:88147,1136:88999,1150:89496,1158:89780,1163:91768,1212:92123,1218:96880,1309:100433,1322:101348,1344:112110,1441:114406,1458:120447,1507:123666,1556:124275,1565:124710,1572:125319,1580:126363,1595:126972,1603:133528,1659:137950,1691:138400,1697:139750,1713:141910,1745:147462,1797:149437,1846:150069,1855:155204,1972:172505,2154:173414,2165:178802,2206:182005,2258:182855,2271:199220,2440:201025,2473:204825,2529:212691,2574:217464,2617:218202,2627:218530,2632:224106,2726:227796,2780:241770,2929:242170,2935:256100,3162
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Lafayette Frederick's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Lafayette Frederick lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Lafayette Frederick describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Lafayette Frederick describes his maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Lafayette Frederick talks about his parents' role as teachers

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Lafayette Frederick describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Lafayette Frederick describes his paternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Lafayette Frederick talks about his father

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Lafayette Frederick describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Lafayette Frederick describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Lafayette Frederick describes his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Lafayette Frederick describes his earliest memory of growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Lafayette Frederick talks about Hayti, Missouri

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Lafayette Frederick talks about his elementary school, Dunbar Elementary School

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Lafayette Frederick describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Lafayette Frederick describes his elementary school education pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Lafayette Frederick describes his elementary school education pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Lafayette Frederick talks about the influence of newspapers and radio durin his childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Lafayette Frederick talks about the influence of radio and his interest in baseball

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Lafayette Frederick describes his high school education pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Lafayette Frederick describes his high school education pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Lafayette Frederick describes his interest in botany

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Lafayette Frederick talks about George Washington Carver

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Lafayette Frederick describes being the valedictorian of his high school class

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Lafayette Frederick describes attending Tuskegee University

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Lafayette Frederick describes the biology laboratory class that he taught while a sophomore at Tuskegee University

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Lafayette Frederick describes first seeing George Washington Carver

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Lafayette Frederick describes George Washington Carver

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Lafayette Frederick talks about his mentor at Tuskegee University

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Lafayette Frederick talks about professors who worked with George Washington Carver at Tuskegee University

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Lafayette Frederick talks about Dr. Charles Gomillion and his work on voter rights

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Lafayette Frederick talks about people he met at Tuskegee University

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Lafayette Frederick describes being drafted while at Tuskegee University

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Lafayette Frederick talks about the Tuskegee Airmen

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Lafayette Frederick describes his employment on a turkey farm after graduating from Tuskegee University

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Lafayette Frederick talks about being drafted into the U.S. Navy during World War II

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Lafayette Frederick talks about the atomic bombing of Japan during World War II

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Lafayette Frederick talks about being a draftsman in the Navy pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Lafayette Frederick talks about being a draftsman in the Navy pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Lafayette Frederick describes his part-time graduate work at the University of Hawaii

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Lafayette Frederick talks about his thesis advisors at the University of Rhode Island

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Lafayette Frederick describes his research on Dutch elm disease pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Lafayette Frederick describes his Master's thesis on Dutch elm disease

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Lafayette Frederick talks about his doctoral research at Washington State University

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Lafayette Frederick talks about becoming a professor at Southern University

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Lafayette Frederick describes how he met his wife

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Lafayette Frederick talks about creating the botany major at Southern University

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Lafayette Frederick describes his time as a professor at Southern University

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Lafayette Frederick describes why he left Southern University to teach at Atlanta University

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Lafayette Frederick describes organizing a faculty statement of disapproval against Southern University's president

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Lafayette Frederick describes the expulsion of student demonstrators from Southern University

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Lafayette Frederick talks about Felton G. Clark, Southern University's president

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Lafayette Frederick talks about the student protests at Southern University

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Lafayette Frederick talks about his students at Atlanta University

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Lafayette Frederick describes his research at Atlanta University

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Lafayette Frederick talks about taking students to scientific conferences

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Lafayette Frederick describes integrating the Association of Southeastern Biologists

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Lafayette Frederick talks about teaching at Howard University and the University of Georgia

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Lafayette Frederick describes returning to Tuskegee University to teach

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Lafayette Frederick describes his current research at Tuskegee University

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Lafayette Frederick reflects on his legacy

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Lafayette Frederick talks about his family

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Lafayette Frederick describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Lafayette Frederick talks about attending scientific conferences

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Lafayette Frederick talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Lafayette Frederick describes his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$7

DAStory

3$1

DATitle
Lafayette Frederick describes George Washington Carver
Lafayette Frederick talks about creating the botany major at Southern University
Transcript
Now, my roommate, during my senior year, one of my roommates was sent down to work in Dr. Carver's laboratory and Talvage Martin tells me a wonderful story about that because Dr. Carver's lab, he never threw anything away. If he would get a package, you know, wrapped in twine, he wouldn't throw the twine away, he would attach it to another piece of twine and he had a great big ball of twine, he never threw anything away. So his lab looked very junky. So Talvage says that he went down and he was approaching Dr. Carver to work in his lab and he didn't see him working in the lab. He said he saw a fellow sitting back in the side room, but he said, "Wonder where is Dr. Carver is, how could he work in a lab like this', he went on to talk about, "this junky lab, says how could he do this?'" He said, "Well, he's not here so I guess I'll come back tomorrow and see him." When he came back the person who had been sitting there--he saw sitting in that room was Dr. Carver. And he said Dr. Carver said, "Well, young man, now if you think that you can straighten up this laboratory, that's fine, proceed, go right ahead and reorganize it." He said he was so embarrassed. Of course he had gone on and on about how junky that lab was.$$Now was he a very tall person, Dr. Carver?$$Yeah, he was kind of stooped with everything, you know, in getting long with age, he was, I guess, he was around six [feet], a little over six, maybe six, one [inch], something like that.$$All right. I've heard he had a real high voice.$$Had a very pitched voice. You see, that's another story. The first time I heard him, when I was a freshman, and he was to be the chapel speaker, and I was sitting there and I was waiting for Dr. Carver to speak, and he--he wasn't there in person because he was in New York City [New York] and he was going to give his talk to the group by radio. Well I kept waiting and I heard this person speaking with this very high-pitched voice and I kept listening. So I asked the fellow who was sitting next to me, I said, "When Dr. Carver going to start speaking?" He said well that's Dr. Carver speaking now. He did have a very high-pitched voice.$$Okay. So he was around campus up until your senior year?$$He died January of my senior year.$$Was he well most of the time?$$Yeah, he seemed to have been well most of the time. He seemed to be up and about. He wasn't as active anymore, but he seemed to be up and about. We didn't know--there was no period of prolonging illness as far as we knew. But then, I guess it's during January, that morning or sometime the word began to circulate on the campus that Dr. Carver had just died.$$Okay. What did he die from, do you know, was it a stroke or something?$$No. I don't know.$$Okay. This is in 1940--$$1943.$$1943. Okay.$Southern University 1952, Baton Rouge [Louisiana], what was Southern like?$$Well, I knew that I was going to really try to cast my lot, although I was interested in research and that sort of thing, and when the chairman of the department at plant pathology in Washington State [University, Pullman Washington], wrote a letter to the people at Southern, they said, "Well now, unless you provide opportunities for research for him, he's not likely to stay." Well, I knew that our schools at that time, that the research opportunities were not going to be very good, but I, as Dr. Howard told me up until the last time I saw him before he died, he said, "You know, you're a man true to your words because when I talked with you, you told me, you said well I'm going to get prepared and I am going to go back and I'm going to work in a predominately black school." So I ended up refusing any offers to go elsewhere, so even after getting to Southern. But conditions for teaching and research were primitive in a since, but the chairman of the department, J. Warren Lee, had a degree from University of Iowa [Iowa City, Iowa], and he was interested in getting some research done, and he was interested in bringing young people in who had an interest in research, and he would do all he could in order to try to help you get some sort of research started there. But after I got there, he asked me, he said, "Well now, I want to start a botany major curriculum within the biology department, and I want you to plan that." And the two of us head that up. So that was what I started working on. I started teaching various courses in botany and started a botany curriculum and ended up with my first three majors in that curriculum were really top students. Each one of them went on to get advanced degrees. The fact of the matter is one of those students became an internationally renowned mycologist and chair of the Department of Botany at [University of California at] Berkeley [Berkeley, California] and not just a graduate professor, but a dean, associate dean of a graduate program at Berkeley, California. He came from a little place, Plaisance, Louisiana, first in his family, big family to go to college, but he was outstanding. He was one of the first of the three botany majors that I had at Southern.$$And what is his name?$$Collins. O'Neil Ray Collins. O'-N-E-I-L-L, O'Neil Ray Collins.$$Okay, and he became a dean at--$$He became chairman of the botany at Berkeley, and associate, assistant dean to the graduate school.$$Now, is he still around?$$He passed untimely. He had Lou Gehrig's disease, or something like that back in the middle '80s (1980s) or early '80s (1980s), he passed away, but he had become internationally renowned for his work with a group of organisms that we call myxomycetes, the slime molds, genetics of that group.$$You had two other outstanding students, you said?$$Well, those are the first three. I had several others after that. Practically all of them got doctorate degrees, either from [University of] Oklahoma [Norman, Oklahoma] or [University of] New Hampshire [Durham, New Hampshire] or a couple other places.