Friday, September 14, 2012

Review: Hidden Genius: Frank Mann, the Black Engineer Behind Howard Hughes by H.T. Bryer

H.T. Bryer. Grey Forest Press: OH, 2011. p. 110
Rating: Worthy


Recall your excitement when your fingers brushed the forgotten twenty dollar bill tucked in the pocket of your winter coat, your favorite watch wedged deep between the sofa cushions, or your lucky socks pushed far under the bed. At that moment adrenaline coursed through your reins—pure ecstasy. I received the same feeling upon discovering this buried treasure of American history.


Frank Mann, mechanical mastermind, led an interesting life: aeronautical engineer, car designer, comedian, dancer, singer—he enjoyed all life had to offer. Refusing to allow his race to encumber him, Frank set out to begin a career in engineering. Once Frank fell in love with airplanes, he spent all his time at the airport observing the mechanics. “I wasn’t getting paid, but I was learning” (15). Other than acquiring knowledge, Frank’s chance encounter with Howard Hughes at the airport would spark a lifelong friendship.


Hidden Genius provides a quick and easy read owing to its simplistic writing style. The subject matter snags a striking appraisal because Frank Mann is a gem of history that everyone should know; however, overall the book only receives a worthy rating.  I felt like the book was less a biography about Frank Mann and more an account of Frank and Paul's budding friendship. Paul’s friendship was invaluable to Frank’s health and well-being, as well as, detrimental in sharing Frank’s life with the masses; nevertheless, it seems much of Paul’s life was interwoven throughout the book. Although it’s well established during that period, African Americans were thought inferior, had their achievements stolen from them, many accomplishments left undocumented, and barred from occupational intermingling with their white counterparts, the book places  a strong emphasis on race.  Much of the book consisted of sentences such as “There is a black man...” or “Do you remember a black man...”


Frank Mann’s technological ingenuity gave birth to such designs as the General Motors LeSabre, aeronautical innovations, and many other inventions. Frank Mann, a voracious lover of life, an engineering legend, desired to be remembered by this sentiment, “Once upon a time Frank Mann built a train” (55).

7 comments:

  1. I had the priviledge of meeting and befriending Frank. He was quite a character, and lots of fun to be around. COMPLETE GENIUS!!!!
    Annabell Lopez

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  2. I was a young Houston Police Officer when I came upon Frank Mann and was thoroughly impressed with his genious and the manner he treated people. Mr. Mann was one of the first people I ever met that knew no strangers. I will always treasure my freindship with him. He taught me the importance of dreaming.

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    1. Tim, it sounds like you all had an invaluable friendship. Thanks for reading.

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  3. I remember some fun coffee shop conversations with Frank as a kid growing up around Whiteman Airpark in Pacoima California in the late 60s, early 70s. Mostly would talk about his train collection and of course flying tips.

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    1. I'm quite sure those were some interesting and memorable conversations. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

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