Dr. William A. Cleland: The First African American Pediatrician In Durham, North Carolina


Dr. William A. Cleland was the first African American pediatrician in Durham, North Carolina. Upon moving to Durham, he opened one of the largest private practices in the area and also ran four well-baby clinics for the Durham Health Department.



Cleland was born in 1907 in Hickory, North Carolina. His father served as minister of St. Joseph’s A.M.E. Church. After completing his high school education, Cleland moved to New Jersey where he worked to complete his college education at Kittrell College. He later attended Howard University to complete his undergraduate and medical education.


Cleland later interned at Freedom’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. He received the support of Dean Wilburt Davidson of Duke medical school, and Dr. Clyde Donnell, in 1936, to obtain a Julius Rosenwald Fund fellowship for training in pediatrics at New York University. He went on to receive specialty training in pediatrics at New York University from in 1936-37.


After completing his studies, Dr. Cleland returned to North Carolina to open up his own practice and serve as Durham’s first black pediatrician.


Written by PH

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