In Memoriam

Gordon Parks (1912-2006)

Gordon Parks, photographer, novelist, poet, songwriter, painter, and movie director, a true Renaissance man, died in New York this past week. He was 93 years old.

A native of Fort Scott, Kansas, Parks, the youngest of 15 children, spent his formative years in the Minneapolis area. As a young teen he left home and got a job playing piano at a brothel. He later worked as a waiter and a Pullman porter. On one train trip he bought a small camera for $12.50 and soon began doing fashion photography shoots for a chic Minneapolis boutique.

After World War II Parks moved to New York and he began a long career as a magazine photographer, first for Vogue and then for Life magazine where he took on many assignments dealing with the civil rights movement.

Parks published his first novel, The Learning Tree, in 1963. Six years later, Parks produced and directed a movie based on his book. He later directed Shaft and three other feature films.

Parks never completed high school but was awarded more than 40 honorary doctorates from American colleges and universities.

J. Tyson Tildon (1931-2006)

J. Tyson Tildon, the founder of the division of pediatric research at the University of Maryland at Baltimore, died from cancer earlier this month in a Baltimore hospital. He was 74 years old.

Dr. Tildon was a native of Baltimore and in 1954 graduated with a degree in chemistry from Morgan State University, the historically black educational institution in the city. He received a doctorate in biochemistry from Johns Hopkins. His research concentrated on the biochemistry of mental retardation.

He began his academic career at Goucher College in Baltimore in 1967. The next year he joined the faculty at the University of Maryland and remained on staff there until his retirement in 2000.

Holloway Fields Jr. (1927-2006)

Holloway Fields Jr., the first black student to earn an undergraduate degree at the University of Kentucky, died late last month at his home in Fayetteville, New York. He was 78 years old.

Fields grew up across the street from the University of Kentucky campus and in 1945 was valedictorian of his all-black high school. But because of his race, he was not permitted to enroll at the University of Kentucky. He began his studies at the Illinois Institute of Technology. When a court ruling ended racial segregation at the University of Kentucky, he immediately applied and was accepted as a transfer student. He was not allowed to live or eat on campus and could not attend the university’s football or basketball games.

Fields graduated in 1951, with a bachelor’s of science degree in engineering. He was told at the time that he was the first black student to graduate from an accredited engineering school at a university south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Fields went on to a long career as an engineer with General Electric in Syracuse, New York. He retired in 1991.

Copyright © 2006. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.