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Eugene Strazola Richards Sr.

Born on 6-16-1918. He was born in Pittsburgh, PA.. He was accomplished in the area of Business. He later died on 9-28-1993.
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Eugene S. Richards, Sr.
Civil Engineer, Land Surveyor, Businessman

If you have ever passed through a long underground tunnel, or ever wondered how skyscrapers and lengthy bridges were built, then you have experienced the work of a civil engineer. Civil engineers deal with the design, construction, and maintenance of the physical and naturally built environment, including works like roads, bridges, canals, dams, and buildings. In addition, civil engineers are responsible for city planning and for most of the structural development seen in the United States today. African-American civil engineers have made significant contributions the field. One of those civil engineers is Eugene S. Richards.

Eugene Strazola Richards was born June 16, 1918 in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania to Wesley and Savanna Richards who migrated from Mississippi circa 1915. He was the fourth of six children from that union. Eugene was always a curious child and a good student with a particular love for math and science. He graduated from David B. Oliver High School in 1936.
Though poor, Eugene was determined to fulfill his dream of attending college and becoming an engineer. While attending the University of Pittsburg during the day, Eugene worked as a janitor at night. His studies were interrupted however, with the outbreak of World War II. Eugene put his studies on hold and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942. After reaching the rank of sergeant and serving in a segregated unit in India, Eugene was discharged. He returned to his studies at the University of Pittsburg.

Eugene was a tenacious, persevering and hardworking young man. With the aid of the GI Bill and while working in the US Post office, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering in September 1948. Married to the former Mildrige Glover and with a newborn, Eugene applied for civil engineering positions in Pittsburg. However, unable to secure a civil engineering position in Pittsburg due to racial attitudes, Eugene applied to and was hired by the Buffalo District of the Army Corps of Engineers in the Fall of 1948. During his tenure with The Corps he worked on numerous projects including:

? Mount Morris Dam (Mount Morris, NY)
? Buffalo Veteran's Administration Hospital (Buffalo, NY)
? Vehicle tunnel beneath the St. Lawrence Seaway
? Eisenhower Lock (St. Lawrence Seaway)
? Infrastructure design for Clarkson College
? Niagara Mohawk power station at Oswego, NY

One of Eugene's more "dramatic" projects was in 1969, when the Army Corps of Engineers built a series of dams which "stopped" the water flow over the American side of Niagara Falls to a mere trickle. This was done to allow for a study of the rock formations at the crest of the Falls and the riverbed; also, to mechanically bolt and strengthen a number of faults to delay the gradual erosion of the American Falls. Note: See photos of a "waterless" American Falls on the Web.


When Eugene Richards retired in 1973 after 25 years of federal service, he had risen to Chief of Survey Specifications. At that time he established a full-time civil engineering business, "Eugene S. Richards, Engineer and Land Surveyor". Located at 1325 N. Forest Road in Amherst, NY it was the first and only African-American Civil Engineering firm in Western New York and one of the few in the country. He employed a number of retired engineers from the Army Corps who worked on local and regional projects, including major survey work for all seven Buffalo Metro Rail stations prior to the construction of the tunnel of the light rail system.

One of the local projects Eugene was most proud of was Samuel's Grande Manor Banquet Facility at 8750 Main Street in Clarence, NY which he designed as an elegant, stately, classical Italian villa with six unique reception rooms each with its own patio or balcony. The Manor was opened in 1978 by the Samuel Pezzino family and still operates today as one Buffalo's premier wedding and banquet destinations.

Eugene was the recipient of numerous professional and civic awards such as the 1981 Black Achievers Award. His most treasured professional affiliation was selection and induction in 1971 in the American Society of Civil Engineers, the oldest national engineering society in the United States. Eugene's many personal interests and hobbies included vegetable and flower gardening, watching the Buffalo Bills (he was an avid fan), dining at seafood restaurants, and traveling to Jamaica and other Caribbean Islands.

Besides civil engineering, Eugene had two other passions. First, he loved his church, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal where he was deeply involved in religious activities and church life. Second, he loved his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, in which he was an active life member, and to which he bequeathed monies to establish a scholarship in his name upon his death.

Eugene S. Richards died September 28, 1993. His wife predeceased him. Survivors include a son, Eugene and daughter, Gwendolyn. Eugene Richards is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, New York.

Written by
Charles H. Campbell

Buffalo News Obituaries
Buffalo District of the Army Corps of Engineers Newsletter, "The Charger"
Interviews with daughter, niece, and friends