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Joan Langdon

Mathematician and education administrator Joan Sterling Langdon was born on August 1, 1951 in Marion, South Carolina. After graduating from Hampton University with her B.A. degree in 1973, she enrolled in the College of William & Mary where she received her M.A. degree in 1977. Langdon went on to graduate from Old Dominion University with her M.S. degree in 1985, and American University with her Ph.D. degree in 1989.

Langdon began her career in higher education as an instructor at Rappahannock Community College in 1977. From 1979 to 1985, she was appointed instructor/lecturer at Hampton University where she also served as the first director of the Mathematics/Science Laboratory. After completing her doctorate at American University in 1989, Langdon joined the Bowie State University community as an Associate Professor in 1989. During her tenure at Bowie State University, she has served in several administrative positions, including as Director of the Summer Institute in Engineering and Computer Applications Program; Coordinator of the Computer Science program in the Department of Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Computer Science; and, as the Faculty Administrative Intern. In 1994, she initiated the Senior Year Progression and Transition Program (SYPAT) and served as coordinator of the program. While there, Langdon served as Founding Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. In 2006, she was appointed as Director of the Title III Program and Director of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

Langdon has also served as chair and/or as a member of numerous committees at Bowie State University and in the University System of Maryland. She was appointed as a curriculum, proposal, and paper reviewer for the Maryland State Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, and the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM), respectively. In 1996, she was appointed to the ACM National Program Committee for SIGCSE. In addition, she has made presentations at all levels of higher education, participated in numerous workshops and conferences, published in conference proceedings, and developed software programs. She has also served as the principal investigator or co-principal investigator for several grants and sub-contracts, and has authored technical reports.

In 1999, Langdon received the ROTC Army Achievement Medal. Bowie State University honored her with the Distinguished Faculty Award in 2003 and the Distinguished Services Award for Outstanding and Dedicated Leadership in 2012. In 2007, she was awarded the NASA Administration Diversity Enhancement Award.

Langdon is married to Larry L. Langdon. They have four daughters: Tomaysa Sterling, Yvonne Langdon, Yvette Langdon, and Heather Langdon.

Joan Sterling Langdon was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 22, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.160

Sex

Female

Interview Date

6/22/2013

Last Name

Langdon

Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Sterling

Schools

American University

Old Dominion University

College of William and Mary

Hampton University

Bryn Mawr College

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Joan

Birth City, State, Country

Marion

HM ID

LAN09

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Alaska

Favorite Quote

God bless the child who has his own.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Interview Description
Birth Date

8/1/1951

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Fruit

Short Description

Math professor and education administrator Joan Langdon (1951 - ) , the Founding Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Bowie State University, also served as director of the Title III Program and Director of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

Employment

Bowie State University

American University

United States Census Bureau

Hampton Institute

Rappahannock Community College

York County Public Schools

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Joan Langdon's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Joan Langdon lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Joan Langdon describes her mother's family background - part one

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Joan Langdon describes her mother's family background - part two

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Joan Langdon talks about her maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Joan Langdon talks about her maternal grandmother's lineage and her grandfather's service in World War I

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Joan Langdon talks about his grandfather purchasing land in South Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Joan Langdon talks about her mother's growing up in Marion, South Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Joan Langdon describes her father's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Joan Langdon describes her father's growing up on a farm, his livelihood as a farmer, and his purchase of land in Marion, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Joan Langdon talks about her father's desire to become a brain surgeon, his aptitude for math, and her parents' home remedies for illnesses

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Joan Langdon describes how her parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Joan Langdon talks about church and about the name "Marion"

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Joan Langdon describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Joan Langdon describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Joan Langdon talks about her siblings - part one

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Joan Langdon talks about her siblings - part two

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Joan Langdon describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Joan Langdon talks about her interest in television as a child

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Joan Langdon talks about reading her older siblings' textbooks

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Joan Langdon describes her experience in elementary school

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Joan Langdon talks about her interest in math in school

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Joan Langdon talks about being removed from the Civil Rights Movement, segregation in South Carolina, and growing up attending segregated schools

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Joan Langdon describes her experience in middle school and high school - part one

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Joan Langdon describes her experience in middle school and high school - part two

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Joan Langdon talks about the teachers who influenced her in school, and her decision to attend Hampton University

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Joan Langdon talks about her initial experience at Hampton University

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Joan Langdon talks about her mentors, Geraldine Darden and Genevieve Knight at Hampton University

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Joan Langdon talks about her social experience at Hampton University and the teachers who influenced her confidence in school and college

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Joan Langdon talks about the encouragement that she received from her math teacher, Geraldine Darden, at Hampton University

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Joan Langdon talks about her academic performance at Hampton University

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Joan Langdon talks about her experience of taking a computer science class at Hampton University

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Joan Langdon talks about getting married, graduating from Hampton University, and pursuing graduate studies at The College of William and Mary

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Joan Langdon talks about teaching mathematics at Rappahannock Community College and at Hampton University

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Joan Langdon talks about attending Old Dominion University for her master's degree in computer science

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Joan Langdon talks about the evolution of computer science in the 1980s and later

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Joan Langdon talks about how she decided to pursue her Ph.D. degree in computer science at American University

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Joan Langdon discusses her experience in the Ph.D. program in computer science at American University and African American female Ph.D.s

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Joan Langdon talks about Dr. Mary Gray and her class of African American female graduates at American University

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Joan Langdon talks about balancing her family life and children with graduate school at American University

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Joan Langdon talks about the success of the Patricia Roberts Harris Fellowship program at American University while she was there

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Joan Langdon talks about her doctoral dissertation at American University

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Joan Langdon talks about Bowie State University

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Joan Langdon talks about STEM education at Bowie State University, and her involvement with the SIECA program

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Joan Langdon talks about receiving the NASA Diversity Award

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Joan Langdon talks about serving on the University of Maryland System Chancellor's Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Joan Langdon talks about the Maryland Collaborative for Teacher Preparation

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Joan Langdon talks about becoming a full professor at Bowie State University and her involvement in professional mathematical societies

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Joan Langdon talks about her work-load at Bowie State University

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Joan Langdon talks about serving as the dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Bowie State University

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Joan Langdon talks about her involvement in the 'Writing Across the Curriculum' initiative

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Joan Langdon talks about her involvement with the military science department at Bowie State University

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Joan Langdon talks about serving as the interim director of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at Bowie State University

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Joan Langdon talks about her involvement with the NASA Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program and other university programs

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Joan Langdon describes her service as the director of Title III programs at Bowie State University and as the acting director of the office of research

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Joan Langdon talks about the major sources of grants at Bowie State University

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Joan Langdon talks about African American doctoral graduates in the computer science department at Bowie State University

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Joan Langdon talks about her teaching and administrative responsibilities at Bowie State University

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Joan Langdon talks about her plans for the future

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Joan Langdon reflects upon her career and her choices

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Joan Langdon talks about her family

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Joan Langdon reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Joan Langdon describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Joan Langdon talks about attending the HERS program at Bryn Mawr College

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Joan Langdon talks about how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

2$1

DATitle
Joan Langdon talks about her father's desire to become a brain surgeon, his aptitude for math, and her parents' home remedies for illnesses
Joan Langdon talks about her initial experience at Hampton University
Transcript
Okay, I have to ask you this question. I have to go back to what your father's [Albert Moody] aspiration was to become a brain surgeon because it's a STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] aspiration, a science aspiration. Is there a story behind how he came up with that?$$Well, he liked working on animals, okay, and he decided he liked to do that. So on the farm he didn't have a whole lot of opportunities to do those things, because you had to do the manual stuff. But every opportunity that he got, he actually worked on the animals. So he worked--we had cows and we had swine, so, not so many goats, a goat was just there for people's pleasure, things like that. But if anything went wrong with them, he would work on them, and he liked doing that; didn't have the opportunity to work on people, but he never wanted to be a veterinarian. He said, he wanted to actually to be able to do those kinds of things on people, and he had a hard time, this is what he told us, he had a hard time when they told him that he had to stop going to school and actually start working because they needed him to work all day, making money. Before he stopped completely, he told us he would get up at four o'clock in the morning, he would go and work on the farm, then he would come back, eat and go to school. And then when he came home from school, he would get back out into the fields and work until dark, so you couldn't see. So he actually tried to prolong it by working early and by working late so he could go to school in between, but eventually that just didn't work, so he had to stop going to school.$$Okay. Now did your father or mother [Julia Ann Smalls] have a particularly high aptitude for math?$$My father did. Everything that he did on the farm, he did himself. When he laid out his acreage and made decisions on what the yield would be for the land--we planted cotton, corn, tobacco, wheat and lots of garden-related things, how much land you needed to plant for the yield that he wanted to make the amount of money, he figured all that out himself. In fact, I can tell you, one day when--this was after I was in college and went back. I used to go back home and work on the farm every summer. He was telling me how to figure out what to do with the land, how to get the yield that you wanted and how many acres and what you had to do. And it was amazing to me that he could do this, and he did it all in here (indicating head). He didn't--no calculators, no whatevers, he did it here (indicating), and he did a few things on paper, but mostly, he did it in here (indicating). Early on he helped us with our homework. So up to the point where he had gone to school, he helped us all do our work for grade school and the early part of grammar school. He's the one who helped us do our work. So, he could do those things. He surprised me because there were times I had to use the calculator to get it done.$$Okay. Like I said, you know, a brain surgeon is an aspiration, it seems like a pretty big aspiration, but he was already doing veterinary things. He had a sense that he could do something. Did he have any--did he know like the traditional herbal remedies for--$$Oh, my goodness, yes. We never went to the doctor, never went to the doctor until things were really, really serious, otherwise, between my mother and my father, we didn't go. Brewed us tea and drink it, you felt better, eat this, you felt better, making combinations of things so that you would have a medication that would solve the problem, that's all that they did. In fact, I can honestly tell you, I probably went to the doctor for the first time--somehow, I had low blood pressure and I was getting weak, and nobody could figure out why. That's the first time that I could remember having gone the doctor when I was growing up, first time. Other than that--$$How old were you?$$Early high school.$$Okay.$$Now, we went--you had to go for shots, you know what I mean.$$Vaccinations?$$Yeah, vaccinations and things like that, but I mean literally seeing a doctor, didn't do that, didn't have to, they gave us the remedies. We were okay.$$Okay.$All right, 1969, at Hampton University. Well, tell us about your first day at Hampton?$$Well, believe it or not, my first day was a little different than what people would expect. I had to go early, okay. So that means the first day we were supposed to arrive, it would have been on Monday. But my father's [Albert Moody] truck had problems, so we had to hire somebody to take me to school. So, literally, I had to go a day early. So they took me on Saturday, because the person who took us had to be at work on Monday and, of course, couldn't take me on Sunday. So, literally, my mom [Julia Ann Smalls] and one of our neighbors drove me to school on Saturday, and so there were only--and two other people had the same problem. So three of us were in the dorm that night, and the dorm mother was there. And when we showed up, of course, we surprised her to death, because of course we weren't supposed to be there. So we were there that day and the next day. And then on Monday, when we were actually supposed to be there to sign in and register and all of that stuff, so I was able to do that and my scholarships were all there in place, everything was there, and you know, well in those days we had a week of orientation. So we went around, we registered during that week, we learned the Hampton song, we found our other buildings that we were supposed to go to for our classes, we took our testing, we did all of those things within the first five days at Hampton, and I ended up actually taking two tests because I wanted to be a math major. So, to be a math major, I had to prove to them that I knew algebra inside and out, so they gave me this algebra test to take to prove to them that I knew some, and so I did, I to a test, extra test, you took the first one and then you had to take the second one.$$Okay. Okay, so you qualified to become a math major?$$Yes.

Johnny Houston

Mathematician, education administrator, and research director Johnny L. Houston was born on November 19, 1941 in Sandersville, Georgia to parents Bobby Lee Harris and Catherine Houston Vinson. After graduating from Ballard Hudson High School in Macon, Georgia, Houston attended Morehouse College and graduated in 1964 with his B.A. degree in mathematics. Houston received his M.S. degree in mathematics from Atlanta University (Clark Atlanta University) in 1966 and then travelled to Paris, France to study at the Universite de Strasbourg. In 1974, Houston graduated with his Ph.D. degree in mathematics from Purdue University.

In 1975, Houston was appointed as the chair of the Atlanta University Math and Computer Science Department. During a leave period, he served as the Calloway Professor of Computer Science at Fort Valley State University. In 1984, Houston became the vice chancellor of academic affairs and professor of math and computer science at Elizabeth City State University (ECSU). He was named senior research professor in the ECSU Department of Mathematics and Computer Science in 1988. Throughout his career, Houston has held several positions as a specialist in mathematics and computer science, including serving as a member National Institute of Health’s MARC Committee from 1980to 1986, a member of the Board of Governors of the Mathematical Association of America from 1992 to 1995, and as a member of the Human Resource Advisory Group for the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute from1993 to1998. In 1996, Houston established the Computational Science and Scientific Visualization (CSSV) Center at ECSU; and, in 2002, he established the African Studies (TLMP) at ECSU. Houston served as the director of both programs until 2008. Houston is a co-founder of the National Association of Mathematicians, Inc. (NAM), and served as NAM’s executive secretary from 1975 until 2000. Houston published The History of NAM, the First 30 Years; 1969-1999 in 2002 and is the author of more than forty books and articles on the science, mathematics, and education

Houston has received several awards and honors, including the University Of North Carolina Board Of Governors Teaching Excellence Award in 1996, NAM’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999, and the Purdue University BCC Pioneer Award in 2009. Houston has been included American Men and Women of Science, Who’s Who Among Black Americans, Who’s Who in America, and the World Directory of Mathematicians. In 2010, Houston was named professor emeritus at Elizabeth City State University after twenty-six years of service.

Houston is married to Virginia Lawrence. They have two daughters: Mave Talibra and Kaiulani Michelle.

Mathematician, education administrator, and research director Johnny L. Houston was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 25, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.046

Sex

Male

Interview Date

2/25/2013

Last Name

Houston

Maker Category
Middle Name

L.

Occupation
Schools

Universite de Strasbourg

University of Georgia

Clark Atlanta University

Morehouse College

Ballard Hudson High School

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Day,s Evenings, and Weekends by pre-arrangment

First Name

Johnny

Birth City, State, Country

Sandersville

HM ID

HOU03

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

Any

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - Expenses plus any expression of appreciation

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Mountains, Water

Favorite Quote

Life Has Been Very Kind To Me And I Thank God For It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

North Carolina

Interview Description
Birth Date

11/19/1941

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Charlotte

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Vegetables

Short Description

Mathematician Johnny Houston (1941 - ) was the founder of the Computational Science and Scientific Visualization Center and the African Studies Program (TLMP) at Elizabeth City State University, and co-founder of the National Association of Mathematicians, Inc. (NAM).

Employment

Elizabeth City State University

Fort Valley State University

Atlanta University

Savannah State University

Stillman College

E.E. Smith High School

Favorite Color

Gray

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Johnny Houston's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Johnny Houston lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Johnny Houston talks about his mother and his grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Johnny Houston talks about growing up in the deep South

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Johnny Houston talks about his aunts' perception of Elijah Muhammad

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Johnny Houston talks about his mother's education and career

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Johnny Houston talks about his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Johnny Houston talks about his father's education

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Johnny Houston talks about his relationship with his father

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Johnny Houston talks about how his parents met and his father's career in the funeral business

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Johnny Houston talks about his grandmother's influence on him

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Johnny Houston talks about his grandmother, her influence in the community, and her employment

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Johnny Houston describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Johnny Houston talks about his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Johnny Houston talks about the black communities in Sandersville, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Johnny Houston talks about his interest in how things work and describes living in poverty during his early childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Johnny Houston talks about his experience in elementary school

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Johnny Houston talks about his passion for learning and his elementary teachers' perceptions of him

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Johnny Houston talks about his uncle's service in World War II and the racial tensions of growing up in the South

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Johnny Houston talks about his involvement in Springfield Baptist Church while growing up

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Johnny Houston talks about the impact of his grandmother's death

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Johnny Houston talks about his childhood jobs

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Johnny Houston talks about his sister's death, his family's move to Macon, Georgia, and living in the projects

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Johnny Houston talks about the demographics of the projects of Macon, Georgia, and his education

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Johnny Houston talks about his junior high school science teacher

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Johnny Houston talks about his high school English teachers and the importance of communication skills

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Johnny Houston talks about his science and math instruction in high school

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Johnny Houston talks about his high school math teacher and his math instruction

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Johnny Houston talks about his extracurricular activities and working during high school

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Johnny Houston talks about graduating from high school, his decision to attend Morehouse College, and his financial hardships there

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Johnny Houston talks about his financial hardships and his quest for work in Hot Springs, Virginia

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Johnny Houston talks about his experience working at The Homestead luxury resort in Hot Springs, Virginia

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Johnny Houston talks about his favorite vacation destination, Hot Springs, Virginia

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Johnny Houston talks about his interest in math and science and his chemistry professor at Morehouse College, Henry C. McBay

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Johnny Houston talks about his professors, Claude B. Dansby and Henry C. McBay, at Morehouse College

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Johnny Houston talks about his professors at Morehouse College

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Johnny Houston talks about Benjamin Mays - part one

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Johnny Houston talks about Benjamin Mays - part two

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Johnny Houston talks about Shirley McBay

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Johnny Houston talks about his memories of the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Johnny Houston talks about graduating from Morehouse College and his experience teaching high school mathematics in Fayetteville, North Carolina

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Johnny Houston talks about the professors at Atlanta University Complex, including Abdulalim Shabazz

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Johnny Houston talks about his thesis advisor, Lloyd Williams, and the area of topology in mathematics

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Johnny Houston talks about his decision to study at the University of Strasbourg in France

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Johnny Houston talks about learning French and his experience in France

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Johnny Houston talks about learning French and his travels within the United States

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Johnny Houston talks about his studies and his experience at the University of Strasbourg

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Johnny Houston talks about his travels through Europe

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Johnny Houston talks about his decision to teach at Stillman College and his experience there

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Johnny Houston describes his first exposure to computers, when he attended an IBM workshop to learn to program in Fortran

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Johnny Houston talks about his memories of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his assassination in 1968

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Johnny Houston describes his experience at the Summer Institute for College Teachers of Math at the University of Georgia

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Johnny Houston describes his decision to pursue his Ph.D. degree at Purdue University, and talks about other African Americans who studied there

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Johnny Houston talks about his wife, Virginia Lawrence, whom he married in 1969

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Johnny Houston talks about the establishment of the National Association of Mathematicians (NAM) in 1969, and the reasons for its conception

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Johnny Houston describes the objectives of the National Association of Mathematicians (NAM), and the reasons for its conception

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Johnny Houston talks about his doctoral advisor, Eugene Schenkman, and his experience as a doctoral student at Purdue University - part one

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Johnny Houston talks about his doctoral advisor, Eugene Schenkman, and his experience as a doctoral student at Purdue University - part one

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Johnny Houston describes his doctoral dissertation, titled, 'On the Theory of Fitting Classes in Certain Locally Finite Groups'

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Johnny Houston discusses the impact of his doctoral dissertation, titled 'On the Theory of Fitting Classes in Certain Locally Finite Groups'

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Johnny Houston talks about how pure mathematics is the forerunner of applied mathematics

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Johnny Houston talks about his graduation from Purdue University

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Johnny Houston talks about teaching mathematics at the Krannert School of Industrial Management at Purdue University

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Johnny Houston describes himself as a computational scientist

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Johnny Houston talks about his decision to become the head of the mathematics department at Atlanta University

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Johnny Houston talks about becoming the National Secretary of the National Association of Mathematicians (NAM) in 1975

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Johnny Houston talks about training faculty at HBCUs to use computers in the 1970s

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Johnny Houston describes his experience at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Johnny Houston describes his experience at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 1979

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Johnny Houston talks about becoming the Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Computer Science at Fort Valley State University in 1981

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Johnny Houston talks about his appointment as the vice chancellor of academic affairs at Elizabeth City State University

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Johnny Houston describes the history of Elizabeth City State University

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Johnny Houston describes his contribution towards the computerization of Elizabeth City State University

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Johnny Houston talks about his publications on the general applications of mathematics

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Johnny Houston describes the growing application of mathematics and computer science in scientific research

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Johnny Houston talks about the ease of scientific collaboration in the modern age of computerization

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Johnny Houston describes how he became involved in the President's Africa Education Initiative: Sub-Saharan Africa Textbooks Project

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Johnny Houston describes his contribution towards the President's Africa Education Initiative: Sub-Saharan Africa Textbooks Project

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Johnny Houston describes his collaboration with the University of Cheikh Anta Diop while working on the Sub-Saharan Africa Textbooks Project

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Johnny Houston describes the two different phases of the Sub-Saharan Africa Textbooks Project in Senegal

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Johnny Houston talks about teaching students to think critically to solve problems in mathematics - part one

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Johnny Houston talks about teaching students to think critically to solve problems in mathematics - part two

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Johnny Houston talks about the scientific contributions of Benjamin Banneker

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Johnny Houston talks about Elbert Frank Cox, who was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. degree in mathematics

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Johnny Houston talks about Euphemia Lofton Haynes, Evelyn Boyd Granville and Marjorie Lee Brown

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Johnny Houston talks about mathematician, J. Ernest Wilkins

Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Johnny Houston talks about the accomplishments of mathematician, David Blackwell

Tape: 11 Story: 8 - Johnny Houston talks about African American pioneers in mathematics, and the current occupational trends amongst African American mathematicians

Tape: 12 Story: 1 - Johnny Houston describes his contributions to the field of mathematics, and shares his advice for aspiring mathematicians

Tape: 12 Story: 2 - Johnny Houston reflects upon his choices

Tape: 12 Story: 3 - Johnny Houston describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 12 Story: 4 - Johnny Houston talks about the Black Culture Center at Purdue University and the African Studies Program at Elizabeth City State University

Tape: 12 Story: 5 - Johnny Houston talks about his family

Tape: 12 Story: 6 - Johnny Houston talks about how he would like to be remembered

DASession

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DATape

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DAStory

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DATitle
Johnny Houston talks about his interest in math and science and his chemistry professor at Morehouse College, Henry C. McBay
Johnny Houston describes his experience at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado
Transcript
Now, to Morehouse [College] to talk about the academics. Now did you decide on a major as a freshman?$$When I went to Morehouse as a freshman, I knew I had an analytical mind; I knew I had a curious mind and I told you I had had these two teachers who had mentored me in English in high school. And something annoyed me about them; they would tell me how to do things correctly and why to do it, and then I would find myself doing it and then they--"No, no, you can't do it at this point." I say "Why not?" They say "Because this is the exception to the rule; this is when the rule doesn't apply." (Unclear) "Oh no, this is the exception to"--I say "Well, if it's a rule, it should be a rule." And so I was not--and then in the social sciences, they were talking theories; this is such-and-such-a theory; this is this. I say "Wait a minute, either something is or it isn't." So I liked analytical things and the things that were pretty much straight forward, so I decided the freshman year when I went to Morehouse that I'm sure I'm gonna major in math or science because those--two and two is gonna be four, don't care what you do with it; they're not gonna change. As Mr. Thomas say, "If you heed this compound, this is gonna happen; it's not gonna be these exceptions they keep talking about." So I went there with the understanding that I would either major in mathematics or science because of my very nature, the nature of my mind and what I was most comfortable with. And so I took chemistry my first year there from a professor named Henry C. McBay, perhaps the most renowned African American chemist that we've had in the United States. And he really--he was the most exciting mentor I have had in college; teacher and scholar, he excited me; I took his class, general chemistry, 8:00 in the morning the first year I went to Morehouse. He had a lecture room with 125 seats in it and I would go there and I would sit up near the front; I wanted to hear and learn everything he had to teach. He was a fantastic teacher, great scholar, and he made chemistry come alive, and he excited me; I mean he excited me so much--and the other thing that made me excited was you knew he was a chemist. In the entire--I took two semesters of chemistry from him during my first year at Morehouse, and I only remember him bringing a note or a book to class only once. He was totally prepared mentally with all the details, and he went in there and he could teach chemistry; he knew chemistry and he could teach it. Now there were things in the room like we call the chart of elements [periodic table] and different things he would point to from time to time to refer, but notes he didn't bring. And he had boards that you--you could write on the board and then you could push it up in the air and then pull the other board down and write on it, and then over the other side it had--so we were trying to keep up with him with his writing. But he was a fantastic and inspiring teacher, and he is perhaps the greatest teacher that I have ever had; he inspired me to want to do science and to want to do it well, and I say if I ever taught, I wanted to be like Henry C. McBay.$Now, you did some work with the National Center for Atmospheric Research [NCAR], Boulder [Colorado] right?$$Yes. The idea was and this is one of the things I can never forget my grandmother [Ruth Houston] and mother [Catherine Houston Vinson] for this, they say you learn as much as you can and so what--I talked to some of the professionals--again NAM [National Association of Mathematicians] helped me on this. We were closed out. When I say we, African American mathematicians and scholars were closed out from a lot of the big research labs, a lot of things. But in the '70s [1970s] they start opening up and start letting blacks come out there for internships, or activities during the summer. And so we said, hey we got to take advantage of these things to learn. And they saw that as a forerunner for being able to hire them as full-time employees and also for us to start introducing the students to what they were doing. So, I went out there to Boulder, Colorado and there is something called NOOA, N-O-O-A. It was the National Center for Atmospheric Research, it's on the side of a mountain and it's fantastic. Every morning, five days a week, I had to get up that mountain to that and I had a window in my office and I could look over the mountains. And it was beautiful. In fact, sometime during the lunch hour we would climb some of the smaller cliffs out there--we called them flat irons--just for the heck of it. But that was a fantastic experience because that's when I really got into computer science. They had the first super computer I ever ran into. A large computer was the forerunner to the big super computer and they allowed us to work on it. And you talking about really crunching numbers and we were looking at data they were getting from the atmosphere. And one of the problems they wanted me to work on was unequally spaced data. It was easy to work on data that end up at exact spaces apart, but they found out then in the atmosphere it wasn't like you draw it on the board in the classroom. You had data that was unequally spaced and so the question is--to give an example, if you had one piece of data right here, another piece here, another piece there that was the same distance, well you always knew what was in the middle; it was half the distance between. But what if you got data where one was here then the next piece was there then the next jumped here, how did you handle that data because we needed to know the previous data in order to make predictions about the one up front. And so that was a big problem, how did you handle unequally spaced data. And that was a good computational science problem that I started working on there.$$Okay. Now, also this is at the National Center for Atmospheric Research? And so they had a super computer--this is your first experience with one, what was--can you describe what a super computer was like in '76 [1976]?$$What a super computer was like in '76, I hate to say, but it was like the desktop computers today.$$In terms of the power?$$Yeah. I mean, see in '76 [1976], the only thing that could give--if you had a five hundred and eighty megabytes or if you had one billion gigabytes, only super computers do that. Now you can get a gigabyte on your laptop but back then that was big news; I mean, that was speed. People talk, well wow, you were getting--I don't know whether you ever saw it but the computers back at that time people were talking about thirty-two, thirty-two megabytes or sixty-four, you were on the low computers they had. But you got five hundred and the gigabyte you are the super computer thing.$$Okay.