June Bacon-Bercey was the first African-American woman to earn a degree in meteorology in the 1950s and went on to become an international expert in aviation, weather, environmental matters, and nuclear science. She was the first female television meteorologist in the United States. She was both the first woman and the first African-American granted the “seal of approval” for excellence in television weathercasting by the American Meteorological Society.
Born on October 23, 1932, in Wichita, Kansas, to educated, well-respected parents in her community. In high school, Bacon-Bercey found her passion for science. Many black children during that time were not encouraged to pursue higher studies in STEM-related fields. After moving from a segregated school in Florida to a racially mixed high school in Kansas, a teacher noticed her interest in water displacement and buoyancy and encouraged her to consider a career in meteorology.
Bacon-Bercey went on to attend the University of California in Los Angeles. She majored in math and meteorology and graduated with honors and later earned a Master of Science degree in meteorology in 1955. In 1956, she landed a job working for the National Meteorological Center in Washington, D.C.
In 1970, Bacon-Bercey started working for a National Broadcasting Company (NBC) television station in Buffalo, New York. After the current weatherman was fired, Bacon-Bercey filled the position and soon became the channel’s primary meteorologist, one of the first African-American women to hold such a position at the time. In 1972, Bacon-Bercey became the first African American and the first woman to earn the Seal of Approval for excellence in television weathercasting by the American Meteorological Society.
Throughout her career, she worked for the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency. Bacon-Bercey has worked in research, forecasting, weathercasting, public affairs, training officer, and eventually as an aviation specialist. The influential meteorologist has also been active various professional associations as is a founding member of the American Meteorological Society Board on Women and Minorities.
She has received numerous accolades and has been recognized by National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for her work in atmospheric sciences.
“The respect of her peers—-respect that supersedes age, race, or sex difference and prejudice—-provides her with opportunities to develop ideas and the resources to make them a reality,” wrote Pamela Quick Hall of the American Association for the Advancement of Science about Bacon-Bercey’s achievements.
Although retired, Bacon-Bercey is currently involved in consulting and educational work.