Warren Fitzgerald

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Warren Fitzgerald, standing, far left, next to his mother, in a ca. 1939 family photo.

(November 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 December 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. He quit the AIS after a year or so, too, reported Frank Winter in Prelude to the Space Age: The Rocket Societies, 1924-1940.

However, according to Sam Moskowitz in The Immortal Storm, Fitzgerald turned up at the Newark Convention, “the lone Negro who attended the first national science-fiction convention in 1938.”

Fitzgerald is generally considered one of the first African Americans in fandom, and certainly the best-known in First Fandom. In 1945, Moskowitz wrote admiringly of the “willingness of the other members to accede to his leadership, regardless of racial difference....”

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.
Warren Fitzgerald’s building, 211 W. 122 St. in Harlem, where the Scienceers had their first meetings.

Research by Bill Higgins, Jeff Beeler, 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 had been married to Gertrude L. Fitzgerald (b. 1893) for five years, and he worked as a meter prover, according to the Census Bureau. (However, it might have been a common-law arrangement, since no marriage record has been found and upon his subsequent marriage, Fitzgerald claimed never to have been married.) 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, ID, was remarried, to Donna Z. Fuller on July 10, 1947, worked for a cab company and in the culinary department of a department store, and joined the Boise Moose and Elks lodges.

Person 18991978
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