MPR News with Angela Davis

Trailblazer Reatha Clark King on her journey from chemistry to philanthropy

side by side of a woman before and after
Reatha Clark King was a government research chemist whose work contributed to the NASA space program. She's a former president of Metropolitan State University and a former president of the General Mills Foundation.
Courtesy Reatha Clark King

As a child in Georgia, Reatha Clark King picked cotton for $6 a day to help her family make ends meet. Then, buoyed on the hopes and expectations of her family and church, she blazed a trail from a one-room schoolhouse in the segregated South to college.  

She pushed past gender and racial barriers as a Black woman to become a research chemist in the 1960s, contributing to NASA’s moon landing. She went on to become a college dean, university president and a philanthropist and a vice president of a major corporation.  

Earlier this week, she was honored at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota with a reception and celebration of her recent biography, “Find a Trail or Blaze One.”  

MPR News host Angela Davis talks with Minnesota trailblazer Reatha Clark King about her life.

Two women getting their photo taken while showing a book
MPR News Host Angela Davis talked with Reatha Clark King about her journey from chemist to philanthropist and her recent biography "Find a Trail or Blaze One" in an MPR News Studio in St. Paul on Thursday.
Nikhil Kumaran | MPR News


  • Reatha Clark King worked as a research chemist for the National Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C. In the 1960s. She moved to Minnesota to become president of Metropolitan State University from 1977 to 1988. She was a vice president of General Mills Corporation and president and executive director of the General Mills Foundation until she retired in 2002. Her biography “Find a Trail or Blaze One” was published in 2021.  

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