Saturday, February 25, 2012

Tuskegee Airman: Hackley E. Woodford, M.D.

Hackley Elbridge Woodford decided at an early age that he wanted to become a medical doctor.  He graduated with a bachelor's degree from Western Michigan University in 1936 and went on to earn his medical degree from Howard University in 1940.  He interned at Chicago's Provident Hospital from 1940 to 1942.  Musically talented, he also played piano and violin and performed with small orchestras in the Benton Harbor, Michigan area in his spare time.  Drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942 and sent to North Carolina, they did not realize he was black until he arrived.  After objecting to the poor treatment he received there by the then-segregated Army he was reassigned to Tuskegee, Alabama.  There he learned to fly from instructor C. Alfred Anderson and served as a flight surgeon during World War II.  He rose to the rank of Captain before his discharge in 1945.  Returning to civilian life he was committed to righting social injustice and racial wrongs.  In addition to integrating hospitals and a YMCA in Benton Harbor he was also a contributor to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Urban League, among other causes.  In 1971 he moved to Pasadena, California and joined Kaiser Permanente as a physician and was their first member to be certified by the American Board of Family Practice.  He worked there until his retirement in 1984 when he moved to Rancho Bernardo, California.  He was chosen as a Distinguished Alumnus of Western Michigan University in 1991. Throughout his medical career Dr. Woodford treated patients before and after office hours and accepted payment in the form of produce or fish from those who did not have cash.  He helped people of all races and helped many people go to college or medical school, both financially and by references, and encouraged blacks to pursue medical degrees.

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