Garrett Augustus Morgan was born in Paris, Kentucky, on March 4, 1877, and died in Cleveland on Aug. 27, 1963.
Morgan only had an elementary school education but he went on to invent and improve the sewing machine, traffic signal, hair-straightening products and an early gas mask.
In 1913, Morgan started the G. A. Morgan Hair Refining Co. to market a hair-straightening solution. He created the solution by accident in 1905. Eventually, the company offered a complete line of hair-care products for women.
On Oct. 13, 1914, Morgan received a patent for the gas mask. In 1916, Morgan used his mask design to rescue men trapped in a tunnel by a gas explosion under Lake Erie. Following the disaster, the city of Cleveland, honored him with a gold medal for his efforts.
He was the first Black man in Cleveland to own a car. After seeing a car accident at an intersection, he decided to improve the traffic signal. He developed a warning light to alert drivers that they would need to stop. On November 20, 1923, Morgan received a patent for the automatic traffic signal. He sold the rights to General Electric Corp. for $40,000.