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John R. Hunter
*John McNeile Hunter was born on this date in 1901. He was a Black chemist and professor.
From Woodville, Texas, he was the oldest son of John Alexander Hunter and Mary Evelyn Virginia (Edwards) Hunter. His father, a former school principal, had moved to Texas from Louisiana soon after his marriage to Edwards, who had been one of his students. His mother was a teacher, home demonstration agent, and administrator. The young family only stayed in Woodville for about a year before moving again, first to La Porte and later to Jennings Island, Texas.
Hunter's father secured a ninety-nine-year lease on a property and began developing a ranch. Hunter's father taught him and his brother at home for the first five grades. Once he was officially enrolled in classes at La Porte, Texas, Hunter had to cross two-and-a-half miles of open water to reach the classroom.
He completed his secondary education at Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College (later Prairie View A&M University, part of the Texas A&M University system), where he received his high school diploma and teaching certificate. Hunter received a Bachelor of Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1924 and a Master of Science from Cornell University in 1927. John Hunter earned a Ph.D. in Physics in 1937 from Cornell University. He served as Professor and Head of the Physics Department at Virginia State College from 1925 to 1967. He retired to private life in 1968.
Professor John McNeile Hunter's area of research focused on thermionics. During his tenure, he contributed to the education of many students, over 50 of whom became physicists and engineers. At least 10 of his students earned PhDs in physics, notably Herman Branson. Dr. Hunter established a thriving physics department when few HBCUs had such a department. He was instrumental in educating a generation of Black physicists whose legacy continues. John Hunter died in July 1979.