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Black History Month: Celebrating Pioneer Frederick Jones

February 16 2024
Associations, TAUC News

Frederick Jones, the “King of Cool,” reshaped history with his groundbreaking work in mechanics and portable refrigeration, leaving an indelible mark during World War II.

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1893, Jones faced a challenging upbringing. Abandoned by his mother and orphaned at an early age, he ran away at 11, finding work as a janitor in a garage. His innate knack for mechanics quickly surfaced, propelling him to the role of foreman in the shop.

In 1912, Jones arrived in Hallock, Minnesota, where he immersed himself in mechanical work on a farm. Despite a limited formal education, he tirelessly self-taught, securing an engineering license by the age of 20. This expertise became invaluable during his service in World War I, where he rose to the rank of sergeant, utilizing his mechanical skills to wire telephones, fix X-ray machines, and teach electrical circuitry to fellow soldiers.

Post-war, Jones continued his education in electronics, contributing to the establishment of a radio station and making advancements in the film industry. His inventive spirit led to the development of a device for ticket delivery at movie box offices, marking his first patent.

Jones’ mechanical prowess reached its zenith in 1938 when he pioneered a portable air-cooling unit for trucks transporting perishable goods. This innovation, extending to trains and aquatic vehicles, revolutionized mobile refrigeration. His partnership with Joseph A. Numero led to the founding of the U.S. Thermo Control Company, later known as Thermo King.

During World War II, Thermo King played a vital role as Jones’ inventions preserved blood serums for transfusions, medicine, and food. The mobile refrigeration units he developed became instrumental in transporting perishable supplies across the globe. Jones’ achievements during the war earned him widespread recognition, emphasizing the crucial impact of his mechanics skills and innovations.

Frederick Jones succumbed to lung cancer on February 21, 1961, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but his legacy endures. In 1944, he became the first African American elected to the American Society of Refrigeration Engineers, solidifying his place as a trailblazer in mechanics and mobile refrigeration.

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