Marion Richards Myles

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Dr. Marion Antoinette Richards Myles (1917-1969) was a professor at Tennessee State University, Fort Valley State University and Alcorn State University. She was also the first African American faculty member at the University of Mississippi Medical School.

Life and Education

Dr. Marion Myles

Marion was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1917. Her father, Alfred Richards was a rigger on the city wharves from Bermuda and her mother, Helen Richards was a native of Pennsylvania.

Following high school, Myles graduated from University of Pennsylvania in 1937. She then completed a master's degree at Atlanta University in 1939. In 1943, she began her doctoral studies at Iowa State College, receiving a research fellowship to support her scholarship in the area of plant physiology. In 1945, she received her Ph.D. in Botany. Her dissertation was titled, "Relations of hormones to correlation in maize".

At some point, she married her husband, Frank J. Myles.

In 1950, while serving as an Associate Professor of Agronomy at Tennessee State University, she completed a special course on radioisotopes at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. She planned to apply the techniques learned there to the studies of plant nutrition and photosynthesis. In 1952, she won a Carnegie Foundation Research Grant. Between 1959 and 1961, she was appointed as a Research Associate in Enzymology at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

In 1965, Myles gained international attention when she was appointed to the position of Assistant Professor of Pharmacology -- making her the first African American faculty member at the University of Mississippi Medical School. Her appointment came over strong objections of members of the board of trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning who opposed the hiring of any black faculty. However, the school risked losing funding as a result of their discriminatory behavior which violated the provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Because of that, she was hired.

Myles passed away on October 18, 1969.

HBCU Contributions

From 1941 to 1943, Myles lived in Little Rock, Arkansas, teaching biology at Philander Smith College.

For the two decades following the completion of her Ph.D., Myles taught biology, botany, agronomy, and zoology at several institutions including Tennessee State University, Fort Valley State University, and Alcorn State University.


First African American faculty member at the University of Mississippi Medical School (Assistant Professor of Pharmacology and Research - 1965)


  • Myles, Marion Antoinette Richards
  • Wini Warren, Black Women Scientists in the United States (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999)
  • "Profs from Tenn. State Complete Special Courses," The Chicago Defender (National Edition), Aug 19, 1950
  • "Negro Woman Joins Mississippi U. Staff as Medical Teacher," New York Times, Jun 28, 1965.