Tuesday, January 12th 2021, 3:40 pm - June Bacon-Brecey was a groundbreaking meteorologist.
A meteorology award is being renamed in honour of June Bacon-Bercey, the first Black woman to earn a meteorology degree in the U.S. and the first female meteorologist to appear on TV south of the border.
Beginning in 2022, the Award for Broadcast Meteorologist of the Year from the American Meteorological Society will be called The June Bacon-Bercey Award for Broadcast Meteorology. It is awarded to broadcast meteorologists who demonstrate "sustained long-term contributions to the community, or for outstanding work during a specific weather event," the society says on its website.
AN INCREDIBLE CAREER
Bacon-Bercey had originally attended a private college and majored in math, leaving that after two years to pursue undergraduate degree in meteorology, a distinction she earned from the University of Kansas in 1954. She then completed a Master's in public education at UCLA.
In her early career, Bacon-Bercey worked at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Weather Service as a weather analyst and forecaster. She later joined the Atomic Energy Commission as a senior adviser, interested in studying the effects of hydrogen and atomic bombs on Earth's Atmosphere.
A position at the National Weather Service in the early 1960s then led to the offer of an on-air position, a role she was initially hesitant to accept.
“I did not want to do weather on television, only because at that time I felt it was still gimmicky for women," she told Robert Henson in the book Weather on the Air: A History of Broadcast Meteorology.
She eventually agreed, quickly rising to the rank of chief meteorologist at WGR-TV in Buffalo, N.Y.
AWARDS AND RECOGNITION
Bacon-Bercey received several honours during her career, including the American Meteorological Society Seal of Approval for excellence in television weathercasting in 1972, the first woman to receive the distinction.
In 2000, she was celebrated by Howard University for her work in inspiring the next generation of scientists, including the establishment of a meteorology lab at Jackson State University and for working as a substitute teacher in California's public schools.
MENTORING THE NEXT GENERATION
In addition to advocating for the environment, Bacon-Bercey worked to promote the careers of minorities in atmospheric sciences, serving on a pair of committees in 1974 that would later become the American Meteorological Society’s Board on Women and Minorities. She was one of the 12 founding members, and worked alongside them to strategize ways to encourage, recruit, and support scientists from underrepresented backgrounds.
“She did everything 110 per cent,” daughter Dail St. Claire told Eos
“She couldn’t see [anyone who] looked like her. There wasn’t a lot of support.”
Bacon-Bercey died on July 3, 2019 at 90 years of age.