In Memoriam

Charles L. Yates (1936-2010)

Earlier this month a memorial service was held on the campus of Virginia Tech to honor Charlie Yates, the university’s first black graduate. Yates died this past summer after a battle with leukemia at the age of 74.

Yates was the valedictorian of the Class of 1954 at Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk. He entered Virginia Tech in the fall of 1954 but was not permitted to eat, room, or socialize on campus. Yates earned a bachelor’s degree in 1958, the first black student since Reconstruction to graduate from a publicly operated predominantly white university in a former Confederate state.

Yates went on to earn a master’s degree at CalTech and a Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University, where he conducted research at the Applied Physics Lab for nearly two decades.

Yates returned to Virginia Tech in 1979 to teach mechanical engineering. He was named a professor of aerospace and ocean engineering in 1987 and served in that capacity until 2000. A residence hall at the university now bears his name.

Marion Brown (1931-2010)

Marion Brown, the renowned jazz saxophonist and former professor of music at several colleges, has died at a hospice facility in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He was 79 years old.

A native of Atlanta, Brown studied music at what is now Clark Atlanta University. He moved to New York City in 1962 and soon became a member of John Coltrane’s band. Brown became a key figure in what was known as the free jazz movement.

Brown taught at Bowdoin from 1971 to 1974. He later taught at Brandeis University, Colby College, Amherst College, and Wesleyan University, where he earned a master’s degree in ethnomusicology.

Earl Wilson Jr. (1932-2010)

Earl Wilson Jr., founder of the St. Louis Gateway Classic Sports Foundation which raised millions of dollars to help send African Americans to college, has died from pancreatic cancer at the age of 78.

Wilson sponsored an annual football game in St. Louis between two historically black colleges. The proceeds from the event has been funding scholarships for African-American college students. Since 1993, 120 students received scholarships from the foundation.

Wilson was a graduate of Lincoln University of Missouri and had a 26-year career with IBM.