Warren Fitzgerald

(Nov. 12, 1899 - May 30, 1978)

Warren Scott Fitzgerald was the founding president of the Scienceers, the first regularly meeting sf fan club. The Scienceers met weekly at the home of Fitzgerald and his wife, Gertrude, an apartment in a brownstone at 211 W. 122nd St. in Harlem, from its first meeting on Dec. 11, 1929, through the spring of 1930.

Fitzgerald, who was about 30, twice the age of most of the other club members, joined the American Rocket Society and helped to found the American Interplanetary Society in April 1930, apparently losing interest in fandom and becoming involved in rocketry instead, making him the first fan ever to gafiate.

Fitzgerald is generally considered one of the first African Americans in fandom, and certainly the best-known in First Fandom.

In a reminiscence in Joe Christoff's 1950s fanzine Sphere, Scienceers founding member Allen Glasser described Fitzgerald: "He was a light-skinned Negro — amiable, cultured, and a fine gentleman in every sense of that word. With his gracious, darker-hued wife, Warren made our young members welcome to use his Harlem home for our meetings — an offer we gratefully accepted."

Research by Bill Higgins, Kevin Nickerson and others in 2009 casts doubt on whether Fitzgerald was, in fact, African-American. Census information and military records they unearthed suggest that he may have been a white man in an interracial marriage. In terms of the history of diversity in fandom and Fitzgerald's acceptance by fans, that matters not at all: The other Scienceers thought he was black, and either they didn't care enough or were too polite to inquire further.

Born in Stoneham, Warren, Pennsylvania, Fitzgerald was the son of a French-Canadian father, Francis James Fitzgerald, and an upstate New York-born mother, Elveretta Leigh Scott, and spent his formative years in Oklahoma. His obituary in the Idaho Statesman says he was educated in Oklahoma and Oregon. In 1930, he worked as a meter prover, according to the Census Bureau. He served in the Marine Corps as a private first class during World War I, where his duty was as a messman. Later, he moved to Boise, Idaho, remarried, and worked for a cab company and in the culinary department of a department store.

More reading: The Live Journal thread in which Higgins and others discuss their research into Fitzgerald's life, at http://beamjockey.livejournal.com/138618.html