October 27, 1941 Ernest Everett Just, pioneering biologist and one of the founders of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, died.
Just was born August 14, 1883 in Charleston, South Carolina. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree magna cum laude from Dartmouth College in zoology in 1907. After graduating and encountering the reality that it was almost impossible for an African American to join the faculty of a white college or university, Just accepted a position at Howard University.
On November 11, 1911, Just served as the academic adviser to three Howard students in establishing Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. In 1912, Just was appointed head of the Department of Zoology at Howard, a position he held until his death. Just was the first recipient of the NAACP Spingarn Medal in 1915 and the next year he earned his Ph. D. in zoology from the University of Chicago.
In 1930, Just was the first American to be invited to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin, Germany where several Nobel Prize winners conducted research. He wrote the important textbook, “Biology of the Cell Surface,” in 1939. Just’s biography, “Black Apollo of Science: The Life of Ernest E. Just,” was published in 1983. The book received the Pfizer Award and was a finalist for the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography.
In 1996, Just became the 19th honoree in the United States Postal Service’s Black Heritage postage stamp series. Beginning in 2000, the Medical University of South Carolina has hosted the annual Ernest E. Just Symposium to encourage non-white students to pursue careers in biomedical sciences and health professions.