Trailblazing meteorologist Dr. June Bacon-Bercey has passed away at the age of 90.
Bacon-Bercey broke barriers as the first female television meteorologist as well as the first African-American woman to obtain a degree in meteorology.
Though she passed away in July 2019, her daughter, Dail St. Claire, just recently shared the news with AccuWeather.
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“Many have asked why I waited so long to announce my mother’s passing,” St. Claire wrote on Facebook about delaying the announcement. “The truth – I was not ready to grieve. I was not ready to let go. And, Mom was also the head of our family. I was not ready to be. In the end, Mom gave me the strength to move on through her final wish.”
Bacon-Bercey was a woman of many firsts. According to AccuWeather, she was also the first woman and first African-American to receive the American Meteorological Society’s (AMS) Seal of Approval for excellence in television weathercasting.
A seasoned and respected meteorologist among her peers with a career spanning several decades, she had stints with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service (NWS). She also worked as a scientific news correspondent for an NBC TV station in Buffalo in 1970.
“She wasn’t in Buffalo very long, but she made Buffalo broadcasting history as the first woman of color to be on a TV news anchor team here,” Buffalo-area historian, Steve Cichon, told AccuWeather. “She was also the first scientist to have the job here. She was an important trailblazer in many ways.”
Throughout her professional career, she advocated for more women and minority representation in the atmospheric sciences – an initiative she championed by helping found the AMS Board on Women and Minorities.
“She was obviously extremely successful…” NOVA’s director of education and outreach Ralph Bouquet told AccuWeather.
“She did so much and also gave back in so many prominent ways – with a scholarship, with setting up a meteorology lab at Jackson State University, just really impressive things that one person was able to accomplish.
“How many people could have done that, could have been in that position to produce so much but also give back so much?”
After winning $64,000 on game show The $128,000 Question in 1977, Bacon-Bercey used the funds to setup a scholarship program for women pursuing courses in atmospheric sciences, with several women benefiting from it.
“I was discouraged (from becoming a meteorologist), and other women were discouraged,” she told The Washington Post about the scholarship fund in 1977. “If they feel they’ve got some money behind them, it might be better.”
Though she took a different career path, St. Claire had nothing but praises for her mother and spoke extensively about how her work ethic helped shape up her career.
“My mom was my mentor and my role model in my life,” she told AccuWeather. “I always speak about my mom in my life whenever I have a chance to speak in different venues. There’s no question that my career, while different, the work ethic and discipline and persistence and uncompromising goal to be excellent at all costs is what I learned from my mom.”