Dr. Thomas Wyatt Turner

Biologist, Educator and Civil Rights Activist
Thomas received his A.B. from Howard University in 1901 and M.A. From Howard University in 1905. He was a founding member of the NAACP. Initiated into Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity in 1915. Thomas Wyatt Turner became the First African American to receive a Ph.D. from Cornell University 1921 followed shortly by Kappa Frater Elbert Cox who earned a doctoral degree (first in Mathematics) from Cornell University in 1925.

While working at Cornell University in 1918, Turner did special work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Maine, where he examined potato fields. The American government consulted Turner throughout his career about agricultural problems. Under the auspices of the United States Secretary of Agriculture.

Turner taught biology in Baltimore, Maryland from 1902 to 1910. Turner taught for a year in the St. Louis High School, but returned to Baltimore in 1911, where he remained for three more years. From 1914 to 1924, he was Professor of Botany at Howard University and also served from 1914 to 1920 as Acting Dean at the Howard’s School of Education. During the summer months from 1916 to 1921. While working at Cornell University in 1918, Turner did special work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Maine, where he examined potato fields. The American government consulted Turner throughout his career about agricultural problems. Under the auspices of the United States Secretary of Agriculture.

Turner studied at Cornell University, where he received in 1921 his Ph.D. in Botany, His dissertation was entitled “Studies of the Mechanism of the Physiological Effects of certain Mineral Salts in Altering the Ratio of Top Growth to Root Growth in Seed Plants.” His thesis was eventually published in the American Journal of Botany.

Hampton Institute (1924-1945) The Department of Chemistry is housed in Turner Hall, which is named after Dr. Thomas W. Turner. He became the head of the Biological Studies Department at Hampton University.

Dr. Turner was active in Catholic organizations and in societies for the advancement of the Negro. He founded in 1925 the Federated Colored Catholics (FCC), an organization, national in scope, composed of catholic Negroes who placed their services at the disposal of the Church for whatever good they were able to effect in the solution of the problems facing the group in Church and country.

In 1976, the Secretariat of Washington, D.C.’s Black Catholics named its highest award for the Thomas Wyatt Turner Award has become an annual honor. Turner was also Supreme Color Bearer of the knights of St. John.