At Delve Underground, we celebrate Black civil engineers throughout history, whose invaluable contributions have advanced the industry. During Black History Month, we honor civil engineering pioneers like Archie Alexander, William Dammond, Howard Grant, and Hattie Peterson, who broke down barriers and expanded the possibilities for all who followed.

This month is also a reminder of our commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging. Our employee-led Inclusion & Belonging Committee is dedicated to cultivating a workplace where everyone’s ideas and opinions are heard and valued and where everyone is free to bring their whole selves to work. We aspire to build a welcoming workplace that values our differences and uniqueness.

We believe that when people of diverse backgrounds and experiences come together, it makes our company stronger, and better equipped to serve communities through our work.

Archie Alphonso Alexander

Born in 1888 in Iowa, Archie Alexander broke racial barriers through his academic and professional accomplishments. He was the first African American to graduate from the engineering program at the University of Iowa.

After college, Archie was hired by Marsh Engineering Company and worked on a bridge-building program in Iowa and Minnesota. In 1917, he formed his own engineering company and continued his education in bridge design at the University of London. In 1925, Archie earned a degree in Civil Engineering from Iowa State University.

In 1929, Archie formed a new company, Alexander & Repass, with fellow University of Iowa alum Maurice Repass. Here, he was responsible for the construction of the Whitehurst Parkway and the Tidal Basin Bridge in Washington, DC, among several other infrastructure projects. He also designed the Tuskegee Airfield, the University of Iowa central heating plant, and a major steam tunnel beneath the Iowa River.

Archie was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Engineering by Howard University in 1946. He became involved in politics in 1932, serving as the Assistant Chairman of the Iowa Republican State Committee. He was later appointed to be the Governor of the US Virgin Islands by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. After a lifetime of breaking down racial barriers and contributing to significant engineering projects, Archie Alexander passed away in 1958. He continues to impact the industry through scholarships for students studying engineering at the University of Iowa, Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, and Howard University.


Iowa College of Engineering, Distinguished Engineering Alumni Academy Members: “Archibald A. Alexander”

BlackPast, African American History, “Archie Alphonso Alexander (1888-1958)”

Hattie T. Scott Peterson

Hattie Peterson was born in Norfolk, VA in 1913. She was a pioneer for African American rights and women’s rights. In 1946, Hattie was the first Black woman in the United States to earn a degree in Civil Engineering after graduating from Howard University. She then went on to work as a survey and cartographic engineer for the US Geological Survey in Sacramento, California.

In 1954, Hattie became the first female engineer at the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Here, she worked in the Hydrology Section, which involved flood reduction and control projects.

Hattie became a strong advocate for women to pursue careers in engineering. She passed away in 1993, leaving an endowment to Howard University. The USACE Sacramento District honors Hattie’s contributions to civil engineering through the Hattie Peterson Inspiration Award, which is given each year to “Recognize the Sacramento District individual whose actions best exemplify the highest qualities of personal and professional perseverance through social challenges.”


Croft, Jeremy, US Army Corps of Engineers, US Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District: “Engineering Pioneer Remembered During Black History Month”

Straughan Environmental, News: “Black History Month Spotlight 2023-Meet Hattie Scott Peterson”

William Hunter Dammond

William Hunter Dammond was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1873. He attended Western University of Pennsylvania, now the University of Pittsburgh, and graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering in 1893, becoming the first African American graduate of the University. He then went on to study math at the Park Institute Preparatory School and began a career as a math professor at Paul Quinn College in Texas, and later taught at Wilberforce University in Ohio.

Following his career in academia, Dammond moved to Detroit to pursue a career in engineering. Here, he was the Assistant Bridge Engineer for the Michigan Central Railroad. Dammond invented and patented the Dammond Circuit, which was an electric track circuit signaling system that operated using alternative current and battery backup. This invention replaced the manual hand signaling system with audio and visual signals inside the cab, improving the safety of railroads. He also patented the “Safety System for Operating Railroads,” which was used to signal clear, caution, and danger to trains traveling between New York City and Washington D.C.

He brought his railroad inventions to London in 1910 and began working on bridge design in England. Dammond returned to the United States during World War I and joined the engineering department at US Steel and later Boston Structural Steel. In the 1920s, he moved to New York City and worked as a structural draftsman for the NYC Board of Transportation.

Dammond’s Track Circuit Signaling System was used by railways throughout the East Coast, including the Long Island Railroad, the Pennsylvania Railroad, and the New York City Subway. Despite the use of his patent, Dammond had to fight to receive recognition for his invention. William Hunter Dammond passed away in 1956 having made significant improvements to railroad safety and engineering.


Turvill, Claire, EE Power, Market Insights: “William Hunter Dammond: Railway Engineer with a History of Firsts”

University of Pittsburgh, Innovation Institute, “William Hunter Dammond: a Man of Firsts”

Howard P. Grant

Howard P. Grant was born in 1925 and spent most of his childhood in Los Angeles. He attended the University of California, Los Angeles for two years and then transferred to the University of California, Berkeley College of Engineering. He received his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering in 1948, becoming the first Black student to graduate from the University. He also became the first Black member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

After graduating, Howard worked for the City of San Francisco Water Department, becoming the first Black civil engineer employed by the City and County of San Francisco. Howard was the second Black licensed PE in the state of California. He served as the President and Treasurer of the California Society of Professional Engineers.

Howard helped to form the Northern California Council of Black Professional Engineers (NCCBPE), which is dedicated to advancing the engineering careers of African Americans and Black youth. He served as president of the organization for several years, advocating for encouraging young African Americans to enter the field. Howard passed away in 1997, leaving a lasting impact on the civil engineering industry.


Structural Engineers Association of Northern California: “Engineers/Howard P. Grant”

Cardec, Allen, Civil Engineering Academy, Blog: “Black History Month 2023: Meet Howard P. Grant"