Black History Month: Roy Clay Sr., the “Godfather of Silicon Valley”

black history month roy clay sr.


In honor of Black History Month, we’re celebrating some of the most iconic black innovators in technology.

Roy Clay Sr., known widely as the “Godfather of Silicon Valley,” is best known for developing new software for HP computers and paving the way for other African Americans in the tech industry.

Growing up in Kinloch, MO, his achievement in high school led him to an academic scholarship to St. Louis University. He was among the first African-Americans to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in 1951.

By the late 1950s, Clay had taught himself to code. With his mathematics degree and a new interest in technology, he moved to Silicon Valley where he landed his first computer science job and developed new software to measure how radiation would spread after an atomic explosion.

Hearing of his impressive development, David Packard hired Clay to lead the HP team in bringing the computer #2116A to market in 1966. He also wrote the software.

He left HP in 1977 to start his own company, ROD-L Electronics, producing the world’s first electrical safety testing equipment.  They set the standard in electrical product safety testing while collaborating with tech giants such as HP, IBM, AT&T, and Xerox.

Clay served as the first African American councilman and Vice Mayor of Palo Alto, CA. As of 2003, he is a Silicon Valley Engineering Council Hall of Fame inductee.