65. Chasing Happiness with Lewis Latimer (Restore Black Wealth)

lewsi latimer, black wealth, black millionaire, black excellence, black history month

One of my favorite inventors is Lewis Latimer. He was the youngest of four children born to runaway slaves. Yet, his life intertwines with Fredrick Douglas, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison. Lewis Latimer was instrumental in the work of several inventors and even had some inventions of his own.

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The son of runaway slaves

As I mentioned, Lewis Latimer was the son of runaway slaves. His parents escaped from slavery in Virginia and were living in Massachusetts. It was there that his father, George was captured in Boston and tried as a fugitive. His attorneys were abolitionists Fredrick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison. Through their successful defense, George and his family did not have to return to Virginia. However, they were required to purchase their freedom from their previous owner.

It is important to understand how difficult of a time it was for blacks in America. When most slaves did not have hope for a better life, there were those like George Rebecca who were chasing happiness by rising to the challenge. They knew their freedom wasn’t going to be handed to them, so they decided to take action and take it. These lessons from the parents of Lewis Latimer would clearly impact the man Lewis would become.

Lewis Latimer had a string of defiance

When you are the child of a runaway, it seems like you don’t get to complain about life very often. You could tell Lewis Latimer learned from his parents that you have to take action to change the world. At the age of 16, Lewis lied about his age so he could join the Navy to fight in the civil war. Yup, he didn’t lie to avoid the war like many in power do today; he lied so he could participate in the war. You can tell his parents taught him it won’t be given to you, but you will have to take it.

Within each story I am going to share this month about black excellence, you will see a string of defiance. There is an understanding that the world is not the way you like it, so you need to fight like hell to change it. It seems that most people today are losing that defiance to challenge the status quo. People no longer want to stand firm for anything, but would rather be accepted by everyone. This is creating an environment where people are settling and living a life they are not passionate about living.

You must decide if chasing happiness is worth the risk of confronting your fears and self doubt. The challenges you face are not going to be easy, but they are not going to be impossible. It was difficult to runaway and leave everything you know for a life of uncertainty. Yet, the Latimer family knew it wasn’t impossible because people were escaping to freedom on regular basis. It would have seemed unlikely to be captured and then to win your trial, but that is exactly what happened.

What does success look like?

The mistake that most people routinely make is they never try. They just tell themselves all the reasons they shouldn’t take action. But they never contemplate what life would be like if they succeeded.

After an honorable discharge from the Navy, Lewis Latimer returned to Boston and accepted a job as a glorified secretary at the Crosby and Gould patent law office. However, Lewis learned about patent design by watching the draftsman in the office. Soon he was recognized for his brilliance and he was promoted to draftsman.

Then Lewis Latimer found himself working on projects for Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison. He helped Bell with the design for the telephone and he was an instrumental member of Edison’s work on the light bulb. Lewis Latimer had a unique skill set that made him an expert in both electrical engineering and patents. In 1890, Latimer published a book entitled Incandescent Electric Lighting: A Practical Description of the Edison System.

Inventor by his own right

It was actually Lewis Latimer that patented the carbon filament for the light bulb. The carbon filament is what made the light bulb affordable to the everyday worker. Before Lewis Latimer had this breakthrough, the light bulb was going to be too expensive to produce the average person.

Lewis Latimer created several of his own inventions as well. He designed the water bathroom for the railcar and is credited with the early design of the AC unit to name a few.

More articles you may enjoy:

  1. Chasing Happiness by Rising to the Challenge
  2. How Chasing Happiness Will Help You Catch Greatness
  3. Chasing Happiness with Dr. Mae Jemison (Restore Black Wealth)
  4. Chasing Happiness with Dr. Philip Emeagwali (Restore Black Wealth)
  5. Chasing Happiness with Thurgood Marshall (Restore Black Wealth)

Final thoughts

Lewis Latimer continued his consulting work until 1922. By taking advantage of every opportunity and always being ready for a challenge, Latimer was able to become a multi-millionaire in a time when most blacks had nothing. In today’s dollars, his fortune is estimated to have totaled $100M. Lewis Latimer could have lived a life short of his potential and no one would have blamed him. He was the son of runaway slaves and had every reason to believe life was harder for him than his Caucasian counterparts. Yet, because he expected more of himself and he was willing to fight for what he believed in, Lewis Latimer will go down as one of the most influential inventors in American history.

Until next time,

Dre “Better Self ,Better Wealth” Griggs


Lewis Latimer 'Net Worth: https://celebstrendingnow.com/lewis-howard-latimer-net-worth/
Lewis Latimer Biography: https://www.biography.com/inventor/lewis-howard-latimer

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