Frederick Jones biography
Frederick Jones was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on May 17, 1893. Jones taught himself mechanical and electrical engineering, inventing a range of devices relating to refrigeration, sound and automobiles. Portable refrigeration units developed by Jones helped the United States military carry food and blood during World War II. Jones died in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on February 21, 1961.
Frederick McKinley Jones was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on May 17, 1893. Both of his parents had died by the time Jones was 9 years old, at which point he went to live with a priest in Kentucky. This living situation lasted for two years. At the age of 11, Jones returned to Cincinnati and found work as a janitor, later working as an automobile mechanic.
Frederick Jones had talent for and an interest in mechanical work. He read extensively on the subject in addition to his daily work, educating himself in his spare time. In 1912, he moved to Minnesota to work as a mechanic on a farm. Jones served in the U.S. Army during World War I, returning to the farm following his service.
It was on the Hallock farm that Jones educated himself in electronics. When the town decided to fund a new radio station, Jones built the transmitter needed to broadcast its programming. He also developed a device to combine moving pictures with sound. Local businessman Joseph A. Numero subsequently hired Jones to improve the sound equipment he produced for the film industry.
Jones continued to expand his interests in the 1930s. He designed and patented a portable air-cooling unit for trucks carrying perishable food. Forming a partnership with Numero, Jones founded the U.S. Thermo Control Company. The company grew exponentially during World War II, helping to preserve blood, medicine and food. By 1949, U.S. Thermo Control was worth millions of dollars.
Patents and Honors
Over the course of his career, Jones received more than 60 patents. While the majority pertained to refrigeration technologies, others related to X-ray machines, engines and sound equipment.
Jones was recognized for his achievements both during his lifetime and after his death. In 1944, he became the first African American elected to the American Society of Refrigeration Engineers. Jones died of lung cancer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on February 21, 1961.
In 1991, President George H.W. Bush awarded the National Medal of Technology posthumously to Numero and Jones, presenting the awards to their widows at a ceremony held in the White House Rose Garden. Jones was the first African American to receive the award, though he did not live to receive it. He was inducted into the Minnesota Inventors Hall of Fame in 1977.