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Dr. Lloyd C. Elam

Founder of Meharry Medical College’s Psychiatry Department and retired college president Dr. Lloyd C. Elam was born on October 27, 1928 in Little Rock, Arkansas. His parents, Ruth Davis Elam and Harry Penoy Elam met in church in Little Rock. Elam attended Stephens School and graduated from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in 1944 at age fifteen. He went to junior college in Little Rock before moving to Harvey, Illinois. There, Elam worked for the Maremont Automobile Plant and commuted to Chicago to attend classes at Roosevelt University where he graduated with his B.S. degree in zoology in 1950. After a stint in the United States Army, Elam earned his M.D. degree from the University of Washington School of Medicine in 1957. From 1957 to 1958, Elam completed an internship at the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago, and from 1958 to 1961, he served as a resident in psychiatry at the University of Chicago Hospital.

Elam joined Chicago’s Billings Hospital as staff psychiatrist and instructor of psychiatry in 1961. From 1961 to 1963, he served as assistant professor and chairman of the Psychiatry Department of Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. Becoming a full professor in 1963, Elam was appointed interim dean of the college in 1966. In 1968, he was selected president of Meharry Medical College and supervised the school’s growth in that capacity until 1981. From 1981 to 1982, Elam was college chancellor. He served as Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry from 1982 to 1995 when he retired to serve as a volunteer faculty member. Elam served as a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, California in 1982. He was made Professor Emeritus of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in 1996 and Chairman Emeritus in 1997. Elam is a member of the Tennessee Psychiatric Association, Tennessee Medical Association, American Medical Association, National Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, American College of Psychiatrists, Black Psychiatrists of America, R.F. Boyd Medical Society and the American College of Forensic Examiners.

In 1973, Elam was presented an honorary Doctor of Laws from Harvard University. His other awards include honorary degrees from Meharry Medical College and St. Lawrence University; the 1988 National Board of Medical Examiners Distinguished Service Award; induction into the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society; the 1972 Nashville Club Man of the Year Award; the 1976 Human Relations Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews and the 1988 Eleanor Roosevelt Key, Roosevelt University’s highest alumni award. Meharry Medical College established the Lloyd C. Elam Mental Health Center in his honor and that building now bares his name.

Elam and his wife, Clara Elam, R.N., have two daughters: Dr. Gloria Elam-Norris of Chicago and Dr. Laurie Elam-Evans of Atlanta. Elam passed away on October 4, 2008.

Elam was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 14, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.089

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/14/2007

Last Name

Elam

Middle Name

Charles

Schools

Paul Laurence Dunbar High School

University of Washington

Stephens Elementary School

Roosevelt University

University of Chicago

First Name

Lloyd

Birth City, State, Country

Little Rock

HM ID

ELA02

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Arkansas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Tennessee

Birth Date

10/27/1928

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Nashville

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Peas (Black-Eyed)

Death Date

10/4/2008

Short Description

College president, psychiatrist, and psychiatry professor Dr. Lloyd C. Elam (1928 - 2008 ) founded Meharry Medical College’s Psychiatry Department, and served as the college's president until 1981.

Employment

Meharry Medical College

Dupont Corporation

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Dr. Lloyd C. Elam's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam describes his mother's community in Arkadelphia, Arkansas

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam describes his father's education and occupation

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam describes his likeness to his parents

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam describes his father's lumber business

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam talks about race relations in Little Rock, Arkansas

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam describes his paternal grandfather's career as a stagecoach racer

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam describes his household

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam recalls his refusal to eat meat

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam describes his childhood diet

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam recalls his transportation to school

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam remembers his family's road trips to Arkadelphia, Arkansas

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam recalls his experiences as a migrant farmworker

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam recalls attending Stephens Elementary School in Little Rock, Arkansas

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam describes his family's daily prayers

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam recalls selling newspapers

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam remembers his teacher, Leroy Christopher

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam remembers an influential teacher

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam recalls his community's emphasis on education

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam recalls his early interest in medicine and psychology

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam remembers his early understanding of mental health

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam recalls the popular ideas about mental illness during his youth

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam recalls the beliefs about mental illness in rural Arkansas

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam recalls his decision to attend Roosevelt College in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam remembers his high school graduation

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam describes his experiences at Roosevelt College

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam remembers serving in the U.S. Army's Medical Service Corps

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam recalls the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, Washington

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam remembers meeting his wife

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam recalls race relations at the University of Washington School of Medicine

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam describes the findings of his medical study of stress

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam recalls the psychiatry program at the University of Chicago

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam recalls his influential professors

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam talks about the treatments for mental illness

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam describes the perceptions of psychiatry in the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam recalls founding the Department of Psychiatry at Meharry Medical College

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam describes the changes in the cost of psychiatric care

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam recalls establishing a day hospital in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam recalls his presidency of Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam describes his challenges as the president of Meharry Medical College

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam describes Meharry Medical College's contributions to Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam talks about his community health concerns

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam describes the increase in African Americans seeking psychiatric care

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam talks about his retirement

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam talks about the underrepresentation of African Americans in the medical field

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam reflects upon the psychological effects of the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam reflects upon his life

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam talks about his involvement at the First Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenneesee

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam describes his civic activities

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Dr. Lloyd C. Elam narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

11$7

DATitle
Dr. Lloyd C. Elam recalls his early interest in medicine and psychology
Dr. Lloyd C. Elam recalls his presidency of Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee
Transcript
Now how was high school [Paul Laurence Dunbar High School; Dunbar Magnet Middle School, Little Rock, Arkansas]? Were you active in clubs in high school or student government or sports or anything like that?$$I went to all the football games but most of the people in my--most of the guys in my class were active and I was not. I enjoyed studying (laughter). As a matter of fact, the way I got interested in medicine I was thirteen and kind of browsing in the library one day and saw a little book and the title of it was 'Physique and Personality' [ph.] and I said, oh, that sounds interesting. I read it, it was fascinating and it went on to show how whatever kind of physique you has, you have determines what kinds of adjustment possibilities are open to you. If you're a little athletic boy and somebody does something on the playground, you might hit him or push him or something and he stops doing it. And so you figure that works and so you become that kind of an outgoing person. If you are a little thin, scrawny guy and you try that, the guy will hit you back and say that, that won't work. So you decide to go to the library, (laughter) read books and so that determines your--another little boy on the playground tries pushing, gets hit, tries studying, reading, he's not smart so that doesn't work. So he becomes the jokester and so the little fat boy becomes a jokester. And so it was fascinating the way he wrote the book but it has some motivational kind of lesson. And his students really tried to, to do a scientific study of all of this but they went too far. But as you know, your physical does affect your personality. But that's how I got interested in psychology and then found out, if you're gonna do research in psychology, you should go on and be a psychiatrist so you can do all kinds of research. And that's how I got interested in that.$$Okay, so at age thirteen you were aware of what a psychologist was and--$$Yeah (simultaneous).$$--(simultaneous) in terms of that--$$Yeah.$$--because of that study?$$Yeah.$Now, just about the time that I got all of that going the--there was progress in civil rights and desegregation of schools. And people had the idea that all of the black schools were gonna merge into the others and you wouldn't need them so we had that kind of crisis. And that's when I moved into administration and bunch of us met every Saturday night for a year struggling with what, what would be an appropriate approach to this problem. It was a problem for us.$$The funding began to dry up or--for the black institutions?$$No, probably, I don't know but you know, black institutions have always had funding problems so I don't know if it was drying up or not. I was--this is before I was in administration. But the question is, why do you need two whatever kinds of institutions, you know, and so what we decided after that year of, of talking about the problem is that, sure enough, you did need historically black institutions [HBCUs]. If, if Meharry [Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tennessee] stopped it's existence, then number of black persons going into medicine would drastically decrease and so that we did, indeed, need to continue this institution. And that's when I went into administration and decided that, if we were going to, we needed to be a niche institution. And we should address those illnesses and problems that were unique to the population that we served. And, in order to do this, we had to do a number of things. One, was to build a campus and that's what a good number of years of my administration was involved. But the other was to establish a Ph.D. program, research programs, and so on. And we did that. And it's--and they are going very well in addition to medicine and dentistry.$$How long did it take to establish those?$$I, let's see, I became president in '68 [1968] so we started building campus in '69 [1969] and we started the research in, in graduate studies in about '75 [1975] somewhere in there, middle '70s [1970s]. And then it became a school of graduate studies and research in about '76 [1976]. So--excuse me, let me see, '76 [1976], yep, that's right in '76 [1976]. And now we will graduate a significant percentage of black Ph.D.'s. in the biomedical sciences and of course we still have the medical program.