Pioneering meteorologist’s death announced

Shelby Bell, Staff Writer

Dail St. Claire recently announced that her mother June Bacon-Bercey died, who was the first African- American meteorologist to deliver the weather on the television died on July 3, 2019 at a care facility in Burlingame, California due to frontotemporal dementia. She was 90 years old.

Ms. Bacon-Bercey was hired in 1971 to be a reporter for NBC affiliate in Buffalo, New York although she did not deliver weather forecasts on the air. A year later, after the station’s weather anchor was arrested and charged for robbing a bank in attempt to pay off debts, Bacon-Bercey became an on-air meteorologist.

“All hell broke loose at the station when our weather guy robbed the bank, and they needed someone who was there to fill in for the day,”  Bacon-Bercey was quoted as saying by The San Francisco Chronicle in 2000. “I already knew from my calculations that there was going to be a heat wave. When the heat wave hit the next day, the job was mine.”

Other black women such as Dianne White Clatto and Trudy Haynes, had delivered reports on television almost a decade prior to Bacon-Bercey but, according to various sources including the weather forecasting and news company AccuWeather, which profiled her in 2019, and Physics Today, a magazine published by the American Institute of Physics,  she was the first trained female meteorologist to do so.

“Whether she was the first or not, she was one of the major African-American pioneers on television, irrespective of gender.” Bryan Busby, the longtime chief meteorologist for the television stations KMBC and KCWE in Kansas City, Mo. said in a phone interview.

In 1972, June Bacon-Bercey was the first African American meteorologist to be awarded the Seal of Approval from the American Meteorological Society for excellence in on-air meteorology. 

A year later Bercey left WGR to pursue public speaking. Later, she worked for the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

Through the American Geophysical Union which helps women study atmospheric sciences, Bercey endowed a scholarship. Through the years 1978 to 1990, a dozen women have received money for  tuition through the same scholarship. As a provision of her mother’s will, St. Claire hopes to re-establish the scholarship in Bercey’s name.

“June Bacon-Bercey was the personification of the word trailblazer, she had opened doors for not just people of color but women in meteorology and broadcast.” Dorothy Tucker, the president of the National Association of Black Journalists and an investigative reporter for CBS News in Chicago, wrote in an email.

Throughout her lifetime, Bacon-Bercey inspired many young black women. She was a true role model. 

“Too many young blacks believe that the field of meteorology is not open to them; still others are not even aware that the field exists,” June Griffin who studied math at Friends University in Wichita before earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in meteorology from the University of California, Los Angeles, in the mid-1950s wrote.

“Society, too, has a moral obligation to put aside the past myths about black Americans not only in the meteorological field but in all of the technical fields.” she added.