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February 10, 2021

Black History Month Profile: Jack Bryant, former Tuskegee Airman Turned Engineer

The Fall issue of Engineering Inc. magazine features profiles of eight black-owned member firms. In honor of Black History Month, ACEC is highlighting these profiles. Click here to read the complete article.

Jack Bryant, former Tuskegee Airman Turned Engineer

Jack Bryant joined the Army Air Corps, the precursor of the U.S. Air Force, in 1945, the same year he graduated high school, and would soon become a member of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen—the nation’s first black military aviators.

This happened during an era when a Congressionally commissioned report deemed that an African American “didn’t have the mentality or the courage to operate complex machinery or to fight.” 

“At that time, the only categories that an African American could serve in the Navy were as a cook or a steward; in the Army, he could only be in the quartermaster’s corp. There were no officers,” Jack Bryant would say in a published interview before his death in 2016.

The Airmen ultimately flew more than 15,000 sorties in Europe and North Africa during World War II and earned more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses. They also helped encourage the eventual integration of the U.S. armed forces.

After the war, Jack earned a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering from the University of Michigan, and a master’s in engineering management from Northeastern University. In 1976, Jack founded Bryant Associates, an ACEC member firm in Boston.

Now led by Bryant’s son Jeffrey, the firm provides civil, structural and traffic engineering, water resources, construction management and surveying services to a wide array of public and private sector clients.

The firm has found consistent success through its involvement with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s ongoing Green Line Extension, which aims to increase access to fast and reliable public transit service in historically underserved areas.

There have been challenges, such as weathering the Great Recession and now the COVID-19 crisis, but Jeffrey Bryant said that the most persistent obstacle is the same one faced by many small and midsize black-owned engineering firms.

“The challenge in being a minority business enterprise is in talking to the largest firms and agencies about why they need firms like ours on their teams,” he said. “Although it’s not just about having minority business enterprise (MBE) certification, it’s all about what you’ve done and your track record.”


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