loading background

Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

loading media...
Dr. Robert W. Claytor

Dr. Robert W. Claytor

GRHC - May 19th, 2010

Dr. Robert W. Claytor (1897 -1989), co-founder of the Urban League and pillar of our African-American community.



Dr. Claytor is remembered as a ‘community treasure’ who continually touched the lives of African-Americans in Grand Rapids. He was the first black doctor on the staffs of Saint Mary’s and Butterworth hospitals, and he was co-founder of the Urban League in the city.

Claytor, whose parents had been slaves, was the youngest of 13 children was born in 1897 in Virginia. He traveled 250 miles from home to attend a black high school because he wasn’t allowed into the all-white facility two miles from his home.

He enrolled in the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, but he left convinced there was no future for blacks in business at that time. He received his bachelor’s degree in science from Northwestern University. Three of his siblings became doctors or dentists, and Claytor joined his brother at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, TN where he graduated in 1934.

Dr. Claytor soon moved to Grand Rpids, where he became the areas third black doctor. A few months after his arrival in 1936, he joined Saint Mary’s staff.

His first office was above the Rexall Drug Store at the southeast corner of Monroe Avenue and Michigan Street. He delivered his first baby for a poor woman who lived in a makeshift tent on the banks of the Grand River near what is now the Michigan Veteran’s Facility.

In 1976 he received the Michigan Family Physician of the Year Award and was honored in 1984 for 50 years of family practice. Dr. Claytor passed away February 27, 1989 at the age of 91.



Full Details

TitleDr. Robert W. Claytor
KeywordsGlance at the Past, history, Dr., Claytor, doctor, Urban League, WYCE, Grand Rapids, Historical Commission, Podcast
Pubdate StringMay 19th, 2010

Like Us on Facebook
site by GRCMC