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Dr. Percy Lavon Julian

By Clifford L. Muse, Jr., Ph.D.

      Dr. Percy Lavon Julian, the noted chemist, scholar, businessman, and civil rights advocate, was a Howard University faculty member from 1928 to 1931.(1) He was appointed Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Chemistry in 1928. During the period 1929 to 1931, he pursued his doctoral degree at the University of Vienna while on educational leave from Howard. Under a General Education Board Fellowship, sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation, Dr. Julian studied under the eminent scientist Dr. Ernest Spath and obtained his Ph.D. degree in 1931.(2) Returning to Howard as Professor of Chemistry and Head of the Department of Chemistry, Dr. Julian stayed for only one year before resigning in 1932.(3) Dr. Julian, a strong supporter of Howard University, served on the Board of Trustees from 1957 to 1972.(4) In Dr. Montague Cobb’s sketch of Dr. Julian in 1971, he highlights the commitment of the chemist to Howard with the quote:

As a trustee of Howard during the student occupation of the Administration Building in 1968, he argued long and finally persuasively with the students for many hours to leave and not give the police an opportunity to crack their heads. Though he had personally suffered more from racism than most of them had read about, he knew they were on the wrong course and had the courage at unknown risk to give them the benefit of his wisdom.(5)


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June 2001