Garrett Morgan (1877-1963)

Garrett Augustus Morgan, Sr. (1877 – 1963) was an African- American inventor and community leader. He was the subject of a newspaper feature in Cleveland, Ohio, for a heroic rescue in 1916 of workers trapped within a water intake tunnel, 50 ft (15 m) beneath Lake Erie. He performed his rescue using a hood fashioned to protect his eyes from smoke and featuring a series of air tubes that hung near the ground to draw clean air beneath the rising smoke. This enabled Morgan to lengthen his ability to endure the inhospitable conditions of a smoke-filled room. Morgan is also credited as the first African American in Cleveland to own an automobile, and as the inventor of the electric traffic signal feature red yellow and green indicators. His other inventions include the development of a chemical for hair-straightening.

Morgan was born in Claysville, an African-American community outside of Paris, Kentucky, to Sydney Morgan, a son and former slave of Confederate Colonel John H. Morgan (of Morgan's Raiders fame), and Eliza Reed, also a former slave who was half Native American and daughter of Rev. Garrett Reed. He had at least one sibling, a brother Frank, who assisted in the 1916 Lake Erie tunnel rescue.

Possessing only a seventh grade education, Morgan moved at the age of 16 to Cincinnati, Ohio, in search of employment.

 

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