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Black History Maker in Technology: Jesse Russell

Jesse Russell 300x225(February 26, 2019) -  Jesse Russell was a pioneer in the field of cellular and wireless communications. In 1988, he led the first team from Bell Laboratories to introduce digital cellular technology in the United States.

This was 15 years after the first mobile phone call was made. But when that call was placed, it was over an analog system, and what Russell’s team did was develop the technology that transformed communications. Using digital technology, it was dubbed “2G” for the “second generation” of mobile phone systems.

According to the HistoryMakers* website, before Russell led the Bell Labs team, he made his mark in other ways. He earned a bachelor’s of science degree in electrical engineering from Tennessee State University. Russell became the first African American to be hired directly from a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) by AT&T Bell Laboratories. The following year, he completed his master’s in electrical engineering at Stanford University.

Russell never slowed down. He rose through the ranks at the company. Russell worked as Vice President of Advanced Communications Technologies, Vice President of Advanced Wireless Technology Laboratory, and Chief Wireless Architect of AT&T, among other positions. He’s now CEO of incNETWORKS, a company working in 4G broadband wireless communications.

Russell also patented dozens of innovations in wireless technology, including base station tech, which transmits radio wave signals to and from mobile devices. His patents include: “Base Station for Mobile Radio Telecommunications Systems” (1992), the “Mobile Data Telephone” (1993), and the “Wireless Communication Base Station” (1998).

Russell’s Other Accomplishments:

  • 1980: Received the Outstanding Young Electrical and Computer Engineer of the Year Award from Eta Kappa Nuand

  • 1992: Named the U.S. Black Engineer of the Year for the best technical contributions in digital cellular and microcellular technology

  • 1995: Inducted into the National Academy of Engineering

  • He is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.

  • Served as a Board of Director Advisor for the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA)

*About The HistoryMakers: By recording, preserving and sharing the life stories of thousands of African Americans, from President Barack Obama to the oldest living black cowboy, The HistoryMakers is a leader in helping to educate and enlighten millions worldwide through refashioning a more inclusive record of American history. To learn about the contributions of African Americans, visit the website at


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