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   from the issue of February 22, 2007

From the Archives

Samuel ZaZa Childs Westerfield


Research from the College of Engineering, published in the Fall 2006 edition of Engineering @ Nebraska, produced information on the first black engineering graduate from the University of Nebraska: Samuel ZaZa Childs Westerfield, who graduated in 1911 with a bachelor's in electrical engineering.

Born Nov. 11, 1889, Westerfield was home-schooled by his mother, Ida Alice Childs Westerfield, a secondary school teacher. His father, Samuel Franklin Westerfield, operated an open air café in Lincoln, and died in 1907 or 1908 - just after the younger Samuel graduated from Lincoln High School and was studying at Nebraska.

In a time when many universities weren't accepting black students, Westerfield went on to attend Harvard University, earning an LL.B degree in 1916, and later taught at Morris Brown College in Atlanta.

His relatives said he moved to Chicago to help his ailing mother, who died before he could reach her, but nevertheless stayed in Chicago where he married and started a family. In 1919 he moved to Washington, D.C.

Called "a delightful, well-informed man with a charming old school manner of speaking," his family corresponded with the NU College of Engineering about their memories of him after the Engineering magazine published a news piece about him. They reported that Westerfield died in the late 1960s.

A son, Samuel Z. Westerfield Jr., worked in the Department of State and was appointed by Lyndon B. Johnson to serve as deputy assistant secretary for economic affairs.

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