By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent
Until recently, many didn’t know the name Dr. June Bacon-Bercey.
A pioneer in the field of meteorology, Bacon-Bercey, an African American, broke barriers by becoming the first woman meteorologist. Previously, she became the first African American woman to earn a degree in science in the 1950s.
Earlier this month, word spread that Bacon-Bercey had died last summer.
She was 90.
“I was discouraged (from becoming a meteorologist), and other women were discouraged,” Bacon-Bercey told The Washington Post in 1977.
“If they feel they’ve got some money behind them, it might be better.”
Bacon-Bercey’s career included working for NOAA, the National Weather Service (NWS), and eventually an NBC TV station in Buffalo in 1970 as a scientific news correspondent, according to a tribute posted this month on AccuWeather.com.
Bacon-Bercey started as an emergency replacement as a weathercaster but became NBC Buffalo’s chief meteorologist.
“She wasn’t in Buffalo very long, but she made Buffalo broadcasting history as the first woman of color to be on a TV news anchor team here,” Buffalo-area historian Steve Cichon told AccuWeather.
“She was also the first scientist to have the job here. She was an important trailblazer in many ways,” Cichon stated.
Dail St. Clair, Bacon-Bercey’s daughter, told AccuWeather that her mother was her mentor and role model.
“I always speak about my mom in my life whenever I have a chance to speak in different venues. There’s no question that my career, while different, the work ethic and discipline and persistence and uncompromising goal to be excellent at all costs is what I learned from my mom,” stated St. Clair, who is the Chief Operating Officer at Park Avenue Finance.
A pioneer who blazed many a trail, Bacon-Bercey was also the first woman and African American woman to win the American Meteorological Society’s “Seal of Approval” honor for television weather broadcasting.
She was named Minority Pioneer for Achievements in Atmospheric Sciences in 2000.
Born in Wichita, Kansas, on October 23, 1932, Bacon-Bercey attended the University of Kansas, University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Southern California.
She helped to found the AMS Board on Women and Minorities to increase the number of women and minorities in the atmospheric sciences.
In 1977, she won $64,000 on the television game show, “The $128,000 Question,” using those earnings to start a scholarship fund for women studying atmospheric sciences.
Eventually, a dozen women received scholarship assistance, and each landed senior positions at various television stations and weather outlets across the country.
“Education was No. 1, so scholarship was a passion, and she always wanted to share it with those who were less fortunate,” St. Claire said in the Washington Post interview.