Dickerson, Spencer C. (1871–1948)

By: Garna Christian

Type: Biography

Published: December 1, 1994

Spencer C. Dickerson, physician and army officer, was born on December 1, 1871, to Patrick and Eliza Dickerson in Austin, Texas. He completed his early education in Austin and attended Tillotson (now Huston-Tillotson) College. After a stint of schoolteaching at Nashville, Tennessee, he entered the University of Chicago, where he excelled in both academics and sports. He worked with famed athletic director Alonzo Amos Stagg. Dickerson earned a B.S. in 1897, did graduate work at Northwestern University, and received the M.D. degree from Rush Medical College in Chicago in 1901. He interned at Freedmen's Hospital in Washington, D.C., in 1902 and began medical practice the same year at New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he remained for five years.

He subsequently returned to Chicago and became the first black pathologist at Provident Hospital. At this institution he was ophthalmologist and otolaryngologist, 1920–37; departmental chairman, 1930–37; chairman of the executive committee, 1943–46; and chairman emeritus, 1937–48. He also served as public school examining physician and as president of the Chicago Assembly, a medical organization. His awards included an honorary doctor of science degree from Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, in 1945; Distinguished Alumni Citation, University of Chicago, 1946; and Charles Victor Roman Medal for service in the John A. Andrew Clinical Society, Tuskegee, Alabama, 1946.

Dickerson enlisted in the lowest grade of the sanitary detachment, Eighth Illinois Infantry National Guard, in 1914. He was mustered into federal service for Mexican border duty in 1916 at the rank of first lieutenant. He reported for World War I service with the redesignated 370th Infantry in 1917 and received promotion to captain in the medical corps the following year. He garrisoned Camp Logan, Texas, prior to assignment to France. After returning from overseas in February 1919, Dickerson attained the federally recognized ranks of major in 1926, colonel in 1929, and commanding officer, Eighth Illinois Infantry, in 1929. He retired as brigadier general, Illinois National Guard, in 1934, the first black Texan to attain this rank. He died on February 25, 1948, at Billings Hospital, Chicago, of a heart ailment. He was survived by his wife, Daisy, two sisters, and a brother. Grace Presbyterian Church held a memorial service.

Ocania Chalk, Black College Sport (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1976). U. G. Dailey, "Brig. General Spencer C. Dickerson, B.S., M.D., 1871–1948," Journal of the National Medical Association 40 (July 1948). Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: Norton, 1982).
  • Health and Medicine
  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • Pathologists
  • Peoples
  • African Americans
  • Military

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Garna Christian, “Dickerson, Spencer C.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 24, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/dickerson-spencer-c.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994

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