Frederick (Freddie) Douglass, dies at 104 & Joins His Ancestors
WWII Vet Overcame Racism, Fought for Diversity
Frederick Douglass, affectionately known as ‘Freddie,” transitioned during his last sleep into the heavenly realm of eternal rest on Wednesday, March 23, 2016. He was a man of many hats, who always wore one. During 2015, Douglass became one of the oldest people in the world to successfully receive implantation of the Medtronic heart pacemaker. He was born in Meadville PA, on March 13, 1912, the eldest son of Charles A. Douglass (son of Frederick Douglass, Jr), who migrated from Washington DC, upon being recruited by Senator Arthur Labon Bates for whom he did research at the Courthouse when Bates became a Judge.
Although Mr. Douglass traveled the world, he resided in Meadville, Crawford County PA, for 104 years. Fred Douglass was one of the last living members of the distinguished (segregated) 2532nd US
Army Air Force, Randall, Texas. Despite his great achievements, this World War II (WWII) Veteran faced racism at its highest level. Just one example, he and other “Colored” soldiers had to spend evenings picking up trash while the White soldiers relaxed in the segregated USO club, but he pressed on anyway. He was also one of the few African-Americans who worked as an Airplane Mechanic during WWII. He often credited his interest in airplanes to his friend, Ron Hubbard (founder of the Church of Scientology) whom he called Red. They met while Fred attended Howard University in Washington, DC and worked in a private school where Hubbard attended. Despite his knowledge and the fact that he was one of the few African-Americans trained as an Airplane Mechanic in the US Air force, Army; when he returned home from WWII, he was refused an apprenticeship in Meadville’s tool & die industry. Mr. Douglass, was the Grandson of Frederick Douglass, Jr., and the great-grandson of the esteemed abolitionist, author, orator, newspaper publisher & statesman Frederick A. Douglass. Yet, he still suffered racism! He was also bitter that he and his father were mistreated by some family members, because of their Dark hue. His brother Charles A. (Doll) Douglass inspired him to sign up and serve his country. His Brother was a Purple Heart recipient who had his legs shot out (from under him) while saving lives, thereby ending his professional boxing career.
Although he stared down death threats and a major physical alterations, Freddie Douglass came to work everyday, and he successfully integrated Meadville's Talon Zipper factory. He also integrated Mercatoris Oil Company where he had a great work experience, and spent many years working for the Oil company and the American Automobile Association, with his sparring partner and friend, BJ Smith.. Knowing Frederick Douglass of Meadville, was knowing a piece of history. Douglass was familiar and remembered his father's relationship with the Brown family He was also familiar with the nearby John Brown’s Tannery Museum and knew the intimate history of Brown’s (the abolitionist) wife Mary Ann Day, from Meadville, PA, who named one of their children who died during the Osawatomie raid, Frederick He was very knowledgeable about Meadville’s prominent role in the “Underground Railroad” and could take you to houses where runaway slaves were hidden in closets and secret rooms.
Mr. Douglass, recently celebrated 104 years with a spectacular birthday party, with close friends and family members. His four year old Grand-daughter Asherah, sang a beautiful rendition of happy birthday to her great-grandpa who was 100 years her senior. During the celebration, he was presented with a framed letter sent by President Obama congratulating him, for being in the advanced ranks of centenarians. He was also honored with multiple Declarations of congratulations.
Upon learning of his upcoming birthday celebration, Governor Tom Wolf wrote “…You have been an invaluable member of your community, a hard working citizen, and served in the United States Army Air Force. I am certain that your example of your devotion to your family will inspire other for years to come. As governor, and on behalf of all of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I am honored to extend my best wishes for a wonderful birthday celebration and for continued happiness in the coming years.”
Leroy Stearns, Mayor, City of Meadville, Proclaimed March 13, 2016, Frederick Douglass III Day in Meadville, PA, and invited all citizens to join him in “celebrating his illustrious lifetime.”
Mayor Stearns declared ”…Mr. … Douglass is perpetuating the level of community service espoused by his father, Charles A. Douglass, who established the Frederick Douglass Social Center so that people of color would have a decent place to socialize and operated an array of businesses.”
John Christopher Soff, Crawford County Commissioner, and former Mayor of Meadville, PA, joined fellow Commissioners Francis F. Weiderspahn, Jr., and John M. Amari to declare March 13, 2016, as Frederick Douglass III Day in Crawford County, PA. Soff said “Mr. Douglass was a pioneer in proving that people of all races, creeds and colors can live harmoniously in the same neighborhoods, despite the fact he encountered ample prejudice upon moving into an all-white neighborhood during the 1950s. “Fred said “…In spite of all of my troubles, hope and determination allowed me to Press on. I never thought that I would see Barack Obama elected as President of the USA, in my lifetime. I was at the polls 6:00 am, to be first in line to vote for him in 2008 and 2012.” He mandated that his family during Memorial day weekend to also honor his brother and others who served in the military. He also mandated that his body be donated for scientific research and commit to working towards keeping his photographic collection intact in Crawford County, PA along with other important artifacts, from his lengthy life.
In lieu of flowers, please send contributions in Fred’s honor to: Frederick Douglass IV, PO Box 3460, Baltimore, MD 21225. Contributed funds will support the Douglass Archiving Time-Line of African-Americans (DATAA) project of Crawford County, PA. The project will encompass research, photo exhibitions, and a book featuring stories of descendants of African-American southerners who migrated to small, substantially White northern towns during the early 1900's, seeking expanded opportunities for education, employment, health care, and home-ownership.
Mr. Frederick Douglass leaves to mourn two sons, Frederick Douglass IV and Robert Douglass; six (6) grandchildren; eleven (11) great grand-children and four (4) great-great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his daughter Margaret and his wife, Sallie V. Douglass, who was a pioneer in establishing day care for needy children in Meadville, and who earned her degree from Edinboro University at age 66. Fred’s family has continuously held membership and supported Bethel Church in Meadville, for more than a century.
A ”Celebration of Life” and Exhibition of photographs and artifacts will be held on May 28, 2016, at Grace Center Chapel at Wesbury, 31 N. Park Avenue; and, a worship service at Bethel Church, 961 Liberty Street, on May 29, 2016, during Memorial Day Weekend.