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1948: Howard P. Grant Becomes the College's First Black Graduate

Howard P. Grant

Howard P. Grant broke down racial barriers throughout his life.

After making Berkeley history as the first black student to graduate from the College of Engineering, Howard P. Grant made his mark not only as a respected civil engineer but also as an inspiration and mentor to minorities throughout California and the entire country.

Born in Houston in 1925, Grant moved to Los Angeles with his family when he was a young boy. He began his engineering studies at UCLA but transferred to UC Berkeley two years later. After serving in the Air Force, Grant earned his degree from Berkeley and became the first African-American civil engineer for the City and County of San Francisco, where he worked in the water department until 1984.

Grant also broke down racial barriers as the first known black member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, past president and treasurer of the California Society of Professional Engineers and the second African-American civil engineer to be licensed by the state. In 1970, at the request of his friend and colleague Frederick E. Jordan, Grant hosted the first meeting of Northern California's black engineers at his home. Of the 19 engineers Jordan identified in the region, 17 attended. The group evolved into today's 300-strong Northern California Council of Black Professional Engineers, an organization devoted to encouraging African-American youth to consider careers in engineering. Grant served as the council's president from 1971 to 1973.

His leadership also reached underrepresented groups as a founding member of the Engineering Societies Committee for Manpower Training and his position as a board member for Big Brothers, Hunter's Point Boy's Club and the San Francisco Urban League's scholarship committee.

The legacy of this engineering icon is summed up in these words by Frederick Jordan written shortly after Grant's death in 1997:

"Howard Grant was a life success despite the odds, with a passion for doing what he could for his community."