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Catalog Data

Issued by:
Wilberforce University, American, founded 1856  Search this
Received by:
James A. Parsons Jr., American, 1900 - 1989  Search this
Signed by:
Bishop D. Ormande Walker, British Virgin Islander, 1890 - 1955  Search this
Bishop Reverdy C. Ransom, American, 1861 - 1959  Search this
George Henry Valentine, American, 1902 - 1973  Search this
ink on paper on cardboard
H x W: 8 1/2 × 10 1/4 in. (21.6 × 26 cm)
Place depicted:
Wilberforce, Greene County, Ohio, United States, North and Central America
James A. Parsons Jr. was a scientist, inventor, and university professor, whose research with rust resistant metals and iron alloys is credited with leading to the development of stainless steel. He developed Durimet 20, a corrosion-resistant stainless steel alloy also known as Alloy 20, which is still widely used today in a diverse range of industries including petrochemical, textile, nuclear, aerospace, automotive, pharmaceutical, textile and chemical and food processing.
Born in 1900, Parsons grew up in Dayton, OH, where his father worked as a butler for Pierce Schenk, the founder of metal manufacturer Duriron Co. Schenk covered Parsons’ tuition at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in exchange for Parsons’ work over summer breaks. Parsons graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in 1922 with a degree in Electrical Engineering and returned to working at Duriron Co., where he eventually established what was likely the first all-Black industrial research laboratory. Over the course of his career, Parsons received eight patents, won the Harmon Medal in 1928 for his scientific achievements, and had a distinguished teaching career at Tennessee Agriculture and Industrial State College (now Tennessee State University) and Ohio State University.
An honorary doctorate degree from Wilberforce University awarded to James Albert Parsons on June 12, 1941. Printed in black ink on off-white paper, the certificate confers the "honorary degree of Doctor of Science". It has the seal of Wilberforce University printed in black in the front, lower left corner. It was signed at lower right by Wilberforce University’s President D. Ormande Walker, President of the Board of Trustees Reverdy C. Ransom, and Secretary of the Board of Trustees George H. Valentine. There is an inscription in pencil on the back of the diploma [1/2 BIK / 22507].
African American  Search this
Education  Search this
Engineering  Search this
HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities)  Search this
Science  Search this
Credit Line:
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Grant Shipp
Object number:
Restrictions & Rights:
Public domain
Proper usage is the responsibility of the user.
See more items in:
National Museum of African American History and Culture Collection
Awards, Medals, and Insignia
Data Source:
National Museum of African American History and Culture