As many have seen in the movie, “Hidden Figures,” based on the true and untold story of three Black women crossing all gender and race lines to inspire future generations about the importance of dreaming big and preparing themselves to achieve their dreams.
The movie does a great job of showing the struggles against racism that these dynamic Black women had to endure. It should also be noted that African American males employed by the aerospace industry were also facing racism and discrimination in this field during the 1950s, before the civil rights movement, and throughout the 1960s.
Bill Freeman, President/CEO of Freeman Alternative Staffing Resources, worked in the aerospace industry during that same period, along with other outstanding African American men. Likewise, they faced similar challenges of institutional racism in the workplace. Bill is well acquainted with the important roles and major contributions made by many African American men in the early years of the aerospace industry that have been unsung for the most part.
Bill Freeman was born to a teenage mother who abandoned him at the tender age of two months and was raised in the township of Wetumka, Oklahoma by his grandmother. By the time he reached seventeen, he was able to enroll at Langston University (during a period of segregated schools). He initially enrolled as an art student, but because of his high efficiency in science and mathematics was encouraged to change his major to the physical sciences.
Before the civil rights movement, a year after starting at Langston, Bill Freeman went to the University of Denver to continue his studies in chemistry and mathematics. He self-supported his education by working ten-hour nights as a hotel porter and waiter. He managed to carry a full load of classes during the day for the next three years. In the fall of 1955, Mr. Freeman graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree.
Bill Freeman's first out-of-college job was as a chemical engineer for a Denver chemical products manufacturing company, and then on to the US Department of Defense's Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah. Mr. Freeman was a scientist at the installation for the development and testing of atomic, biological, and chemical warfare weapons.
Mr. Freeman went on to acquire his master’s degree, then pursued an eighteen-year career in chemical engineering with Martin Aerospace, North American Aerospace, and moved all the way to the space vehicles program at Cape Kennedy working with rocketry and propulsion systems.
Mr. Freeman moved to the private sector as an evaluator for prudent management and operations of electrical power utilities, reviewing such companies as Southern California Edison, Bechtel, and Flour Corporation. As a result of his outstanding oversight work, he was recruited to become the Executive Director of the Pacific Energy Exchange. He simultaneously started Freeman Alternative Resources taking on work from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for its Haynes Electrical Power Plant project.
Freeman Alternative Resources became a multi-million dollar-a-year organization located in Newport Beach. Having been twice recognized by the Southern California Minority Business Development Council as Supplier of the Year, and STAR Supplier by the Gas Company. Freeman Alternative Resources has sponsored work permits for Latino and other foreign-born persons. He worked closely with many black entrepreneurs on their business decisions and fund proposal development.
Freeman’s commitment to persevere no matter the circumstances or challenges has inspired many and led to the tenacity he demonstrated while operating Freeman Alternative Resources from 1987 through 2018. Freeman’s achievements have included recognition as the “Minority Supplier of the Year” by the Southern California Regional Purchasing Council in 1989 and being nominated for that award again in 1991. Freeman’s success has resulted in opening the doors to success for many others.
Freeman attributes the challenges he faced during his early years in the aerospace industry, as one of the key inspirations for him to make a change and difference for minorities, which was to open more and greater doors for minorities with technical backgrounds in engineering, aerospace, environmental and research, construction, civil engineering, IT, human resources, telecommunications, legal, real estate, energy, and utilities to have the opportunity to work in their respective fields that have traditionally been dominated by non-minorities.
In 2005, as President/CEO of the Black Business Association (BBA), I was honored to present the Business of the Year award to Bill Freeman for his outstanding commitment to excellence.
Earl ‘Skip’ Cooper, II
Founder, Earl Skip Cooper Foundation