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Today in Black History, 10/28/2012

• October 28, 1918 Edward Alexander Bouchet, educator and the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from an American university, died. Bouchet was born September 15, 1852 in New Haven, Connecticut. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Yale College in 1874, becoming the first black to graduate from the school, and based on his academic performance became the first black to be nominated to Phi Beta Kappa, but was not elected until 1884. Bouchet returned to Yale and in 1876 earned his Ph.D. in physics. Unable to find a university teaching position due to racism, he moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he taught physics and chemistry at the Institute for Colored Youth (now Cheney College) for the next 26 years. Bouchet resigned in 1902 and from 1905 to 1908 was director of academics at St. Paul’s Normal and Industrial School (now St. Paul’s College). From 1908 to 1913, he served as principal and teacher at a high school in Ohio before joining the faculty of Bishop College in 1913. Illness forced him to retire in 1916. The American Physical Society presents the Edward A. Bouchet Award to outstanding physicists for their contributions to physics and in 2005 Yale and Howard universities founded the Edward A. Bouchet Graduate Honor Society.

• October 28, 1922 Simon Vengai Muzenda, Zimbabwean politician, was born in the Gutu District of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). After completing his carpentry courses, Muzenda started his own carpentry business and became active in politics, eventually becoming administrative secretary of the Zimbabwe African National Union. His political activity led to him being imprisoned several times between 1955 and 1971. After Zimbabwe gained independence from the British government on April 18, 1980, Robert Mugabe was elected prime minister and he appointed Muzenda the deputy prime minister and foreign minister. In 1987, Muzenda was appointed first vice president, a position he held until his death on September 30, 2003.

• October 28, 1937 Leonard Randolph “Lenny” Wilkins, hall of fame basketball player and coach, was born in Brooklyn, New York. Wilkins was a two time All-American at Providence College and, when he graduated with a degree in economics in 1960, he was second highest scorer in the college’s history. Providence retired his jersey number in 1996, the first alumnus to receive that honor. Wilkins was selected by the St. Louis Hawks in the 1960 NBA Draft and over his 15 season professional career was a nine-time NBA All-Star and at the time of his retirement in 1975 had the second most career assists in NBA history. After retiring as a player, Wilkins coached in the NBA for 35 years. He was named Coach of the Year in 1994 and retired with the most wins and losses as a coach in NBA history. He also coached the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Champion Men’s Basketball team. Wilkins served as vice president of the NBA Players Association and president of the NBA Coaches Association. He is one of three individuals to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach. He was inducted into the hall as a player in 1989 and as a coach in 1998. In 1996, the NBA named Wilkins one of the 50 Greatest Players and 10 Greatest Coaches in league history, the only person named to both lists. In 2006, Wilkins was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. Wilkins founded the Lenny Wilkins Foundation in 1970 “to fund organizations that deliver healthcare and education services to young people while honoring their dignity and sense of self-respect.” He has received honorary doctorate degrees from Providence College, Seattle University, and St. Francis College. Wilkins published his autobiography, “Unguarded: My Forty Years Surviving in the NBA,” in 2001.

• October 28, 1972 Terrell Lamar Davis, former professional football player, was born in San Diego, California. Davis initially played college football at Long Beach State University, but transferred to the University of Georgia when Long Beach ended their football program. Davis earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in consumer economics and was selected by the Denver Broncos in the 1995 NFL Draft. Over his seven season professional career, Davis was a three-time Pro Bowl selection, two-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year, and two-time Super Bowl champion. In 1998, Davis led the league in rushing and was named the NFL Most Valuable Player. Davis retired before the 2002 season and was inducted into the Denver Bronco Ring of Fame in 2007. He has been a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame on a couple of occasions. Davis published his autobiography, “TD: Dreams in Motion” in 1980. In 1998, he founded The Terrell Davis Migraine foundation to raise awareness about the impact of living with migraine headaches and to educate sufferers and their families about treatment options. Davis is currently an assistant football coach at Rancho Christian School in Temecula, California.

• October 28, 1975 Oliver Edward Nelson, jazz musician, arranger, and composer, died. Nelson was born June 4, 1932 in St. Louis, Missouri. He learned to play the piano when he was six and started to play the saxophone when he was eleven. After military service in the Marines, Nelson earned his bachelor’s degree in music composition and theory from Washington University in 1957 and his master’s degree in music from Lincoln University in 1958. Nelson began leading his own groups in 1959 and after recording six albums his big breakthrough came with the 1961 album “The Blues and the Abstract Truth” which included “Stolen Moments” which is now considered a jazz standard. Between 1966 and his death, Nelson led several all-star bands. He also composed music for television and films and produced and arranged for stars such as Nancy Wilson, James Brown, The Temptations, and Diana Ross.

• October 28, 2003 Marie Maynard Daly, the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry, died. Daly was born April 16, 1921 in Queens, New York. She earned her Bachelor of Science, magna cum laude, and Master of Science degrees from Queens College in 1942 and 1943, respectively. She earned her Ph.D. in chemistry from Columbia University in 1947. Daly taught physical science at Howard University for two years before joining the Rockefeller Institute in 1948 to research cell nucleus. In 1955, she returned to Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons to teach biochemistry. She also became a pioneer in studying the impact of cigarette smoking on the lungs. In 1960, Daly moved to Yershiva University at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine where she taught and did research in biochemistry until her retirement in 1986. In 1988, Daly established a scholarship at Queens College for African American chemistry and physics majors.

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Founded in 1965 and located in the heart of Midtown Detroit’s Cultural Center, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is the world's largest institution dedicated to the African American experience. The Museum provides learning opportunities, exhibitions, programs and events based on collections and research that explore the diverse history and culture of African Americans and their African origins.

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