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William Henry Tebeau (November 23, 1925 – July 5, 2013) in 1948 became the first African-American man to graduate from Oregon State College.[1] He was an engineer for ODOT for 36 years. A residence hall at OSU and Highway 126 between Eugene and Florence are both named after him.

William Tebeau
Bill Tebeau is a retired ODOT engineer and the first African-American to graduate from Oregon State University with a degree in engineering. 13 July 2008
William Henry Tebeau

November 23, 1925
DiedJuly 5, 2013
NationalityUnited States
Engineering career
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Civil Engineering
InstitutionsOregon State University
Employer(s)Oregon Department of Transportation
ProjectsPlanning and research of Oregon's highway construction and improvement programs
  • 1970 Teacher of the Year, Chemeketa Community College
  • 1971 Employee of the Year of Oregon State Employees Association
  • 2008 Oregon Northwest Black Pioneers Trailblazer Award
  • 2010 College of Engineering Oregon Stater Award


Early lifeEdit

William Tebeau was born in Baker, Oregon, United States, to Henry William Tebeau and Frances (née Binor) Tebeau. At age 12, he joined the Boy Scouts of America, earning the Order of the Arrow and eventually becoming an Eagle Scout.[1] In 1943 he graduated from Baker High School.


Tebeau was admitted to Oregon State, but he was not offered a housing assignment because of his skin color, nearly a decade prior to Oregon's fair housing laws.[1][2] He found a job at a fraternity house tending the furnace, in exchange for a room in the basement. He was graduated with a degree in chemical engineering in 1948.[2] When he was unable to find work as a chemical engineer, he studied on his own to become a civil engineer.[3][4]

Engineering careerEdit

Tebeau earned his civil engineering license and joined the Oregon State Highway Department, where he worked for 36 years.[2] He also taught at Chemeketa Community College, where he was named 1970 Teacher of the Year.[2]


Memorial Highway sign honoring state highway engineer William "Bill" Tebeau

In May 2014, Oregon State University announced that its new residence hall east of the Kerr Administration Building on Washington Way would be named after Tebeau, the first African-American male to earn a degree from the university.[2]

In January 2016, the Oregon Legislature passed SB 5, designating State Highway 126 between Florence and Eugene as "William Tebeau Memorial Highway".[5]


  1. ^ a b c "William Tebeau's Obituary on StatesmanJournal". StatesmanJournal. Retrieved 2016-01-30.
  2. ^ a b c d e Floyd, Mark. "Oregon State to name new residence hall after pioneering student". KVAL. Retrieved 2016-01-30.
  3. ^ "Stories from the peculiar paradise - Prominent black men in Oregon history" (PDF). Salem Multicultural. January 30, 2009. Retrieved 2016-01-29.
  4. ^ "Bill Tebeau: A quiet legacy 70 years in the making". Oregon Live. The Oregonian. July 26, 2014. Retrieved 2016-05-03.
  5. ^ "The Oregonian, Your Government, 2015 Session, Senate Bill 5, Provides that portion of State Highway 126 between Florence and Eugene shall be known as William Tebeau Memorial Highway". Oregon Live. 2016. Retrieved 2016-01-29.