Photograph courtesy of the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center. It originally appeared in Dayton’s African American Heritage by Margaret Peters
James A. Parsons, Jr.
James A. Parsons, Jr. was an engineer, inventor and educator. He graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a degree in electrical engineering, and became a chemist at the Duriron Company, working on the development of aluminum, bronze and high silicon iron castings. He became director of the research laboratory at Duriron, and was awarded numerous patents for processes used in making stainless steel. After more than 30 years at Duriron, Mr. Parsons left to become a professor at the Engineering School at Tennessee State University, where he organized the first curriculum in metallurgy at any predominantly black institution in the country. He later taught at the Ohio State University and at Garfield Skills Center in Dayton. He always emphasized mastering the basics, including clear communication, and encouraged his students to strive for excellence. Mr. Parson’s record of pioneering work in the fields of engineering and education and the training of black engineers had a positive impact on the city and the industry.