Class of 2005

George KimbleyWilliam YoungJohn HowardCurtis StrongJonathan Comer

"Black Freedom Fighters of Steel"

After slavery ended in 1865, most blacks were living in the Southeastern states, but in the 1920s, thousands moved north to escape the racial hatred and poor economic conditions, in hope of a better life. Many blacks arrived in the north only to learn that life was not easier, and racism was very much alive. George Kimbley, Bill Young, John Howard, Curtis Strong and Jonathan Comer encountered significant forms of discrimination while working and living in Northwest Indiana. Through their leadership and endless determination for equality, they helped create safer, decent paying jobs in the steel mills for ALL workers.

All five men were born in the South and went to work in the steel mills of Northwest Indiana. George Kimbley and William Young began working in the mills in the early 1920s, John Howard and Curtis Strong in the 1930s and Jonathan Comer in 1948. All five men spent the rest of their working lives challenging race and class within the steel mills.

Their individual leadership while at the mills resulted in the desegregation of the steel industry and the creation of workers’ rights and union equality in the U.S. The Black Freedom Fighters of Steel used innovative techniques to organize and integrate workers regardless of race and class. These unions were called the United Steelworkers of America and were located at Inland Steel Company and Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company in East Chicago, Ind., and U.S. Steel Corporation’s Gary Works.

Before union equality, an African American could not get promoted, regardless of their skill level or length of employment. Black Freedom Fighters of Steel turned their focus on creating seniority agreements, equal pay for equal work and equal training for all workers. They formed associations within the community, civil rights groups and women’s organizations, to further their cause of equality for the betterment of everyone, not one specific race.

George Kimbley, Bill Young, John Howard, Curtis Strong, and Jonathan Comer had an influential role in the struggle for union democracy and workers’ rights in the mills. The benefit of applying partnership building strategies within the steel mills and community majorly affected changes in civil rights.


Dr. William M. Burton and Dr. Robert E. Humphreys

In 1909 there was a growing demand for gasoline in the new age of the automobile. Converting crude oil to gasoline was a very slow process and oil refineries were concerned about a possible gas shortage. At an oil refinery in Whiting, Ind., Dr. William Burton and Dr. Robert Humphreys developed a revolutionary process that changed the fuel industry during the early 1900s. This process was discovered when Dr. William M. Burton, general manager of manufacturing for Standard Oil of Indiana (BP, Whiting) and its main chemist Dr. Robert E. Humphreys worked together to try to solve the problem of increasing the amount of gasoline produced from crude oil. This type of experimentation had never been done before at Standard Oil.

The Burton-Humphreys Experimental Cracking Still became a reality after two years of experimentation and research. Humphreys experimented with the oil under various high temperatures and pressures. After two years of experimenting, they discovered an oil refining method called thermal cracking that significantly increased gasoline amounts. The patent was issued on July 3, 1912, and became known as the Burton Process. Working under dangerous conditions, Burton and Humphreys pioneered the oil refining process and made it possible to double the amount of gasoline. This technology that was the driving force behind meeting America’s fuel needs was developed at Standard Oil (BP) in Whiting.


Captain William C. Eddy

Captain William C. Eddy

Captain William “Bill” Crawford Eddy (1902-1989) of Michigan City, Ind. was a successful naval officer, submariner, engineer, television producer, educator, cartoonist, artist, inventor, entrepreneur, explorer and genius. Captain Eddy was a talented individual who drastically improved our way of life through his inventions and passion for exploration.

Born in New York, Bill Crawford Eddy would set his fate in innovation and adventure. After the Naval Academy, he joined the submarine service. He developed equipment for tracking ships in the U.S. Navy, and went on to develop technology that could detect enemy submarines. While in the service, he designed the badge for the submarine servicemen.

Despite Eddy’s severe hearing loss, he was a pioneer in the area of radar and sound. In 1941, Eddy helped set up WBKB, which would later become ABC Channel 7. He televised boxing matches to Chicago from Michigan City’s Elston High School. Eddy was the first to televise a Notre Dame football game and was asked by the owner of the Chicago Cubs, Phil Wrigley, to televise the first baseball games at Wrigley Field.

In December 1941, Capt. Eddy returned to the Navy when Japan dropped bombs on Pearl Harbor. Using his expertise in radar and sound, he formed a school to train radar technicians, ultimately training 186,000 technicians. Due to his contributions to the wartime victory effort, he was awarded the Navy’s Legion of Merit.

After the war, Captain Eddy began a new type of business which developed and used aircraft radar and equipment to gather information for planning, designing and establishing boundaries in areas such as the Indiana and Illinois toll roads. Internationally, he surveyed Cuba, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and South East Asia to help improve communication between these countries and the United States. Other inventions included cruise control, the endless loop cassette tape and the kaleidoscope.

Captain Bill Eddy lived up to the meaning of a legend. He was a wartime hero during World War II. He paved the way for television, ABC Channel 7, and its earliest programs, including Notre Dame football and Cubs baseball. Captain Bill Eddy died in September of 1989 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.