Besides inventing an effective gas mask, Morgan also invented the three light (red, yellow, green) traffic light to improve motorist safety.
Garrett Augustus Morgan, Sr. (March 4, 1877 – July 27, 1963) was an African-American inventor and community leader. He was the subject of a newspaper feature in Cleveland, Ohio, for a heroic rescue in 1916 of workers trapped within a water intake tunnel, 50 ft (15 m) beneath Lake Erie. He performed his rescue using a hood fashioned to protect his eyes from smoke and featuring a series of air tubes that hung near the ground to draw clean air beneath the rising smoke. This enabled Morgan to lengthen his ability to endure the inhospitable conditions of a smoke-filled room. Other inventions of Morgan’s include the development of a chemical for hair-straightening. Morgan is also credited as the first African American in Cleveland to own an automobile.
Morgan was born in Claysville, an African-American community outside of Paris, Kentucky, to Sydney Morgan, a son and former slave of Confederate Colonel John H. Morgan (of Morgan’s Raiders fame), and Elizabeth Reed, also a former slave who was half Native American and daughter of Rev. Garrett Reed. He had at least one sibling, a brother Frank, who assisted in the 1916 Lake Erie tunnel rescue.