“Of all the endeavors, Dr. Patterson’s starkest accomplishment remains the scope of the people he influenced. Over the course of his 87 years, he inspired Americans as well as African-Americans. He influenced higher education policy and practice. He changed the way that philanthropy would be conducted. He generated a dynamic that pushed every organization to its limit. Hundreds of thousands of Americans continue to feel the effects of Frederick D. Patterson’s work and dedication.”
~ The United Negro College Fund
On October 10, 1901 in Buena Vista Heights of Washington, D.C., William Ross and Mamie Lucille Patterson welcomed their son into their lives. The parents named him in honor of the incredible abolitionist, activist, author, orator and statesman, Frederick Douglass. Douglass, who lived just three blocks away at his home, Cedar Hill, also was a resident of the Anacostia neighborhood. Sadly, William and Mamie passed away from tuberculosis, rendering two-year old Frederick orphaned.
For the next several years, he was shuttled from the District to Texas, living between different relatives until his older sister, Bessie, took primary custody of him. The loss of his parents and lack of familial stability greatly impacted Frederick and, according to the biography on him at the United Negro College Fund website, “as late as the eighth grade, his classmates voted him less likely to succeed.”
Bessie strongly believed in education and sacrificed $8 of her $20 monthly pay to send Frederick to the private elementary school at Samuel Huston College (presently known as Huston-Tillotson College). His passion for learning, especially concerning animals and agriculture, ignited and he attended Prairie View Normal and Industrial Institute (known today as Prairie View A & M University) in Prairie View, Texas. The focus of his academic work was centered in the Agriculture Department and he studied under its top veterinarians, including his mentor, Dr. Edward B. Evans. Evans was key in influencing Patterson’s decision to further his studies at Iowa State College (now Iowa State University), Evans’ alma mater.