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#TBT - Doctoring a Healthy Community: In the Hands of Dr. William H. Calhoun

Today, our doctors and health providers are serving on the front line to ensure our community well-being. I am thinking of them and appreciating how they selflessly place themselves in harm’s way for the greater good.

Dr. William Henry Calhoun_Seattle_ca.1945 -Photo_Property of Black Heritage Society of Washington State, Inc. *The medical bag in the photo is preserved at BHS Collections. Medical instruments and medicines are still contained in the bag as he left them.

By Stephanie Johnson-Toliver

Dr. William H. Calhoun was a graduate of Meharry Medical School located in Tennessee. Meharry was established in 1876 as one of the first medical schools for African Americans in the United States. In the early 1920s, Dr. Calhoun migrated to the Northwest to open a practice in Seattle’s Central Area.

Dr. Calhoun’s first office was at the Chandler Annex* located on East Madison Street. Below is an advertisement for his office hours that ran in a local newspaper. His office was open on Sunday’s by appointment. Sunday appointments likely catered to black people who worked six days a week.

Add copy courtesy, Let’s Take a Walk, author Jacqueline E. A. Lawson, co-founder BHS

Calhoun built a clientele that trusted and respected him. He married Verna Waggener and they lived in an apartment above the office.

Verna Waggener Calhoun -Photo Courtesy Rae Armstrong at Find a Grave

Dr. Calhoun’s practice thrived as Seattle’s 1940s black population nearly tripled. He moved to a larger office located in the Cascade Hotel Building on Yesler Way in Pioneer Square. It was unusual for a black physician/surgeon to have a practice located outside the Central Area in downtown Seattle, this speaks to his success. During this time, Calhoun was one of four black physicians in Seattle. The others were Dr. Robert Joyner, Dr. Walter Scott, and Dr. James Jackson.

Calhoun practiced into his 60s. At age 74, he was the oldest founding member of Alpha Omicron Boule, a chapter in Sigma Pi Phi, a fraternal organization comprised of predominately black professional men. He was adamant about improving community health and supported educational scholarships. Dr. William H. Calhoun died on February 9, 1967 in Seattle. He was survived by his widow, Verna Calhoun.

*The Chandler Annex was owned by William Chandler, who moved to Seattle in 1905 with his wife. The row of one-story apartments occupied the space from 2218 East Madison to the corner of 23rd Avenue. He later acquired an apartment building at 2416 East Madison. Chandler’s brother, Harvey joined him in Seattle and together they established their first fuel business next to the Chandler Hall on 23rd Avenue that later was relocated to 2228 East Madison. The brothers achieved success as businessmen, also owning a transfer company at 2404 East Madison.



1. Black Heritage Society of Washington State, Inc., Seattle, WA www.bhswa.org

2. Carr, F. (2015, March 29) William Henry Calhoun(1890-1967).


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