28 February 2011

Dr. Homeboy. My Hero

Dr. Alonzo McClennan, Charleston, S.C.

He isn't exactly my homeboy but he is my hero and he lived and practiced medicine in my home. I spotted a notice in the paper that Dr. Alonzo McClennan was to be remembered with a new plaque in front of the address that used to house the hospital he founded on Cannon St. Besides the mayor and assorted Medical University dignitaries I was one of the few white faces in attendance. I was tempted to claim to be a great, great, great niece but was honored enough to be able to say, "I live in his house."
Alonzo Clifton McClennan, MD was born in Columbia, South Carolina in 1855. He attended public school there, and in 1873 was appointed to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. After four months he resigned from the academy and studied at Wilberham Academy in Massachusetts and the University of South Carolina. He graduated with honors from Howard University in Washington, DC, receiving degrees both from the School of Pharmacy and the School of Medicine. Dr. McClennan moved to Charleston in 1884 and established the first Negro drug store. In 1897 he spearheaded the drive to fund and staff the Hospital and Training School for Nurses, which he served as medical director,instructor of surgical nursing, and surgeon in charge until his death in 1912. His son, Ridley U. McClennan, MD, also served as a medical director of the Hospital.

Known as a severe disciplinarian and occasional dictator, Dr. Alonzo McClennan posessed admirable surgical skill and unquestioned devotion to his hospital staff and his community. The good he accomplished for both earned their loyalty and respect.

In those days, of course he wouldn't have been able to admit his patients to a hospital so used the basement of the house as his clinic. At that time it had an entrance from the street.

I have a letter from his great great grand daughter who remembered the house having mahogany staircases before it was chopped up into apartments. Then because of this blog, I was contacted by young descendants of his in New York who were delighted to know there was still a Charleston connection. I wish I had known about the event early enough to invite them down. They would have been the guests of honor.

After the speeches and official photo ops people who had worked at the Cannon St. Hospital and folks who had been born there posed for pictures.