Dr. Frederick Douglass Patterson was named after Black journalist and anti-slavery leader Frederick Douglass.
Patterson was born on October 10, 1901. Orphaned at age two, he was raised by his eldest sister, Wilhemina, a school teacher in Texas. He studied at Iowa State College, where he received a doctorate in veterinary medicine in 1923 and a master of science degree in 1927. Five years later, he was awarded a second doctorate degree from Cornell University.
Patterson taught veterinary science for four years at Virginia State College, where he was also Director of Agriculture. His tenure at Tuskegee University started in 1928 and spanned almost 25 years: first as Head of the veterinary division, director of the School of Agriculture and finally as Tuskegee’s third president. He married Catherine Elizabeth Moton, daughter of Tuskegee University’s second president, Dr. Robert R. Moton.
It was Patterson who founded the School of Veterinary Medicine at Tuskegee in 1944, the year he also founded the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). The UNCF continues today as a critical source of annual income for a consortium of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tuskegee University among them.
Patterson also founded the College Endowment Funding Plan for which he was cited by U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1985. President Reagan also honored Patterson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1987. A year later, April 26, 1988, Patterson died at the age of 86. His cremated remains are buried on Tuskegee University’s campus.