Dudley Vincent Powell, Sr., African-American obstetrician, gynecologist, and civil rights activist, was born in Old Harbour (some sources say Kingston), Jamaica, on July 5, 1917. Unfortunately, little is known of his parentage or early life. He attended Beckford and Smith (a boy’s school) and graduated at the top of his class with a pharmaceutical degree from Public Hospital Dispensary of Pharmacy College in Jamaica.
In 1943 Powell immigrated to the United States and enrolled at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee; he finished his undergraduate studies in 1945. Powell married Beryl May Prettygar-Henry on June 1, 1945, in New York City. Beryl was the first African-American woman pharmacist in Brooklyn and a cofounder of the Panel of American Women. The Powells had three children—Dudley, Jr., Hubert, and Tyrone. Powell was one of the first three black students accepted into the University of Rochester School of Medicine in Rochester, New York, and he was the first black student to complete an internship at Syracuse Medical Center in New York. He served his four-year residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Cleveland City Hospital and also taught obstetrics and gynecology at Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
Soon after completing his residency, Powell joined the United States Army, and in January 1956 he was stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, where he served as chief of obstetrics and gynecology at the army hospital. In 1958 he moved to Dallas and was assigned to the U.S. Army Reserve’s 94th General Hospital in nearby Mesquite, Texas. Powell served for twenty-two years in the U.S. military.
In 1958 Powell also became the first black doctor to serve at Parkland Memorial Hospital and St. Paul Medical Center in Dallas. An active leader in community affairs and civil rights, he became an advisor on race relations to President Lyndon B. Johnson. Powell was president of the John F. Kennedy Branch of the NAACP and vice president of the Dallas County Medical Society. He founded the Martin Luther King Community Center, and was cofounder of the St. Phillips Episcopal Center in Dallas. Powell served on the Goals for Dallas Committee, the Catholic Interracial Council advisory board, and the Food and Fellowship for the Aged board of directors. Powell was certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and also worked as a clinical instructor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. He served as a board member of the Dallas Cancer Society, as president and medical director of the Dallas branch of Planned Parenthood, as well as trustee for the St. Mark’s School of Texas from 1970 to 1974.
In 1971 Powell was elected to the national board of Planned Parenthood-World Population. He received the Margaret Sanger Planned Parenthood Outstanding Achievement Award. In 1973 he was named the Omega Man of the Year by the Omega Psi Phi fraternity of which he was a member. In 1977 he was honored with the Legion of Merit, the Army’s most prestigious non-combat award, for “exceptional meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service” at the 94th General Hospital in Mesquite.
Powell died of complications of diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease in Dallas on August 1, 1990, at the age of seventy-three. His funeral service was held at the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration and internment was at Restland Memorial Park.
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Dallas Morning News, December 22, 1977; March 23, 1988; August 5, 1990; July 27, 2003. Dallas Times Herald, August 5, 1990.
Health and Medicine
Physicians and Surgeons
Activism and Social Reform
Dallas/Fort Worth Region
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Powell, Dudley Vincent, Sr.,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 27, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
May 15, 2013
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