Fredrick McKinley Jones was known for his brilliant mind. He was born on May 17, 1893 in Covington, Kentucky. When he was 7 years old, his father sent him to live and be educated at the local Catholic church. While there, a Catholic priest cared for Jones and encouraged his interest in mechanics. At age 11 he dropped out of school and ran away. From the age of 15-19 Jones was a mechanic foreman for a garage. For the next 20 years, he found himself working in steamship repair, furnace repair, and farm machinery repair and maintenance.
During WWI Jones was a member of the U.S. Army and was promoted to sergeant, which was high ranking for any African American during those times. While in the Army, he was in charge of maintaining communications systems at the military front. He also worked on military vehicles, repaired X-rays, and completed electrical wiring. After his duty in the Army, Jones went back to the town of Hallock where he met a man named Joseph A. Numero. Little did Jones know it, but Numero would help him launch his greatest invention yet. On July 12, 1940 Jones patented his invention for a refrigeration unit on the forehead of a truck. Numero and Jones partnered up to create a company called U.S. Thermo Control Company.
During WWII, Jones again joined the military, and again advanced to sergeant. This time the U.S. military saw the benefits of his refrigeration system to help with the war efforts. The air conditioning units helped to keep not only food cold, but also to help transport medicine and blood. The air conditioning units were also used for airplane cockpits and ambulance planes. He also created an air conditioning unit for military field hospitals and refrigerators for military field kitchens.
Jones had 61 patents in his career; forty of these were on refrigeration systems. He became the first African American member of the American Society of Refrigeration Engineers in 1944. On February 21, 1961, Jones died of lung cancer. In 1977, he was inducted into the Minnesota Inventors Hall of Fame.