Newnan-Fairburn Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.

#BHM – Samuel Massie

In recognition of Black History Month, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. continues to recognize a few of its member’s “Achievement in Every Field of Human Endeavor”


Samuel Massie, a genius, chemist and teacher was born in 1919 in North Little Rock, Arkansas. By the time he entered the 1st grade, he was reading at the 3rd grade level. He skipped several grades and graduated high school at the age of 13. Following graduation, he wanted to attend the University of Arkansas, but due to race restrictions, he was not able to attend. Undeterred, he enrolled at Dunbar Junior College, from which he earned an Associate of Arts degree (1936) and subsequently attended Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal College (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff), from which he graduated with his bachelor’s in science and was summa cum laude in chemistry (1938). Massie earned a master’s degree in chemistry from Fisk University in 1940 when he was only 21 years old. Massie said his desire to find a cure for his father’s asthma prompted him to become a chemist. He went on to obtain his PhD in chemistry from Iowa State University (1946).

As he neared the completion of his doctorate, his professor who was already working on the Manhattan Project, assigned Massie to his research team. Massie performed his research where he helped in the development of uranium isotopes for the atomic bomb.

Massie was appointed professor of chemistry and chair of his department at Langston University and later served in the same roles at Fisk University. He later relocated to Washington, DC and became the chairman of the chemistry department at Howard University and served as the Associate Program Director at the National Science Foundation.

Massie subsequently became President of North Carolina College at Durham. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson appointed Massie to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland where he became the first African American professor at the institution, where he created the Academy’s black studies program.

Samuel Proctor Massie is noted for his work on drugs to combat cancer, mental diseases, malaria, meningitis, and herpes. He received a patent for work he did combating gonorrhea.

He was named Professor Emeritus upon his retirement. He has produced hundreds of articles that have appeared in professional publications. In 1988, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the White House and in 1995, his portrait was hung in the National Academy of Sciences Gallery. In 1998, Massie was named one of the 75 greatest chemists of all time, alongside Marie Curie, George Washington Carver, Linus Pauling, and DNA pioneers James Watson and Francis Crick, by the journal Chemical and Engineering News. The US Department of Energy sponsored the Samuel P. Massie Chair of Excellence, a $14.7M grant to enhance environmental research and production of top-level graduates. He also has an elementary school named in his honor in Forestville, MD.

Massie, a 1939 Alpha Delta Chapter initiate, has been affiliated with five Alumni Chapters – the Nashville (TN); Oklahoma (OK); Washington (DC); Durham (NC) and Annapolis (MD) Alumni Chapters. He served as Polemarch of the Nashville (TN) and Annapolis (MD) Alumni Chapters. His outstanding contributions to the field of chemistry earned him the 25th Laurel Wreath, the highest award available to members of the Fraternity. Massie died in Laurel, Maryland on April 10, 2005.

Grand Historian

Kevin Scott

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