Frederick Jones is an inventor and entrepreneur who is credited for his great invention of the portable refrigerator. He received over 60 patents for his other inventions whilst managed to achieve all of these accomplishments living in the era of Jim Crow laws and other propaganda used against Black Americans.
Born in May, 1893 in Covington, Kentucky, at the early age of 9, he lost both his parents and was then put under the care of a priest. He left school after 6th grade as he thought the strict educational system wasn’t suited for him. By 11-years old, he returned to his hometown in Cincinnati where he taught himself mechanical engineering.
During World War I, Jones was deployed as an American soldier to France and he became known for his skills in fixing military gear. After the war, he made a living working at a repair shop, a steamship, at a hotel, and on railroads.
Around the same time, he started inventing things such as a radio transmitter for the Minnesota city radio station, a gasoline motor that could start on its own, as well as race cars that he used to compete in local race events. He designed them so well that they always beat the other racers, even an airplane once. He also built movie sound equipment that supported the advancement of the film industry in the late 1920’s.
Jones became most popular for his invention of the first portable automatic refrigeration system for railroad cars and trucks that travelled long distances in 1935. It became beneficial in avoiding spoilage of food as well as blood and medicine during World War II. He eventually co-founded U.S. Thermo Control Company (later the Thermo King Corporation).
Throughout his life, Jones was awarded 61 patents, in which 40 were for refrigeration equipment, while others were for portable X-ray machines, sound equipment, and gasoline engines.
Frederick Jones died from lung cancer in 1961, but he inspired a lot of Black people that they can do whatever they aspire to do – even when living in a rather unfair environment.