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Dr. Clinton Warner

Dr. Clinton E. Warner, Jr. saw action on the front lines of two of the twentieth century's most transformative struggles. Born in Atlanta on July 11, 1924, Warner fought in World War II and became an active civil rights participant.

Warner's post-secondary education was interrupted by the onset of World War II. From 1942 to 1946, he served in the U.S. Army and participated in the D-Day invasion of France that turned the tide of the war in Europe. Warner then returned home to study at Morehouse College, where he received his M.A. in 1948. He earned his medical degree from Meharry Medical School in Nashville, graduating summa cum laude in 1951. Following an internship in Chicago and surgical training in St. Louis, Warner entered private practice in Atlanta as a surgeon specializing in breast diseases.

Warner also became heavily involved in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. He purchased his first home on Fielding Lane in Southwest Atlanta, defying the Berlin Wall-like Peyton Road Barricades erected in 1962 by Mayor Ivan Allen, Jr. to segregate the community. Warner's act of resistance initiated a campaign for fair housing that opened housing in Southwest Atlanta to African Americans. Warner was also a plaintiff in a 1963 lawsuit that desegregated Emory University and the Fulton County Medical and Dental Society. As the civil rights movement gained momentum, Warner contributed medical and financial services to student activists and was jailed twice in hotel protests in Atlanta. In 1967, he founded the first minority medical surgical group, the Atlanta Surgical Professional Association.

An active member of several medical and civic organizations, Warner has been recognized several times for his contributions to medicine and the community. He served as honorary co-chairman of the Medical Support Group for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, and serves on the board of trustees of Morehouse College. Warner retired from medicine in 1996. He and his wife, Sally Johnson, have one son, Clinton E. Warner, III, and live in Atlanta.

Dr. Clinton Warner passed away on June 30, 2012.

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East Depot High School

Morehouse College

Meharry Medical College

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Favorite Vacation Destination

Hilton Head, South Carolina

Favorite Quote

Accept, But Verify.

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Favorite Food

Beans (Baked)

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Short Description

Civil rights activist and surgeon Dr. Clinton Warner (1924 - 2012 ) served in the U.S. Military, facing action in World War II's D-Day invasion, and was active in the Civil Rights Movement.

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Timing Pairs

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Dr. Clinton Warner's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Clinton Warner lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Clinton Warner identifies his maternal grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Clinton Warner recounts the success of his maternal ancestors

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Clinton Warner describes his family's public service efforts and family farm

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Clinton Warner details his maternal aunts' and uncles' educational and professional accomplishments

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Clinton Warner explains how his maternal grandfather learned to read

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Clinton Warner describes his mother's life and personality

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Clinton Warner relates his parents' childhoods, education, and marriage

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Clinton Warner talks his father's position at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Clinton Warner recalls his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Clinton Warner shares more memories from his early childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Clinton Warner describes the development of his race consciousness

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Clinton Warner recalls his experiences in school as the principal's son

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Clinton Warner talks about his affinity for the piano

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Clinton Warner reflects upon his religious views

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Clinton Warner talks about his path towards becoming a doctor

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Clinton Warner details his experience during and views on World War II, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Clinton Warner details his experience during and views on World War II, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Clinton Warner recalls his time at Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia.

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Clinton Warner recounts his time at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Clinton Warner describes segregation in Chicago, Illinois inside and outside of the hospital

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Clinton Warner details the final steps of his entry into the medical profession

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Clinton Warner describes the challenges he faced entering the surgical field

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Clinton Warner talks about black colleagues in his medical field

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Clinton Warner reflects upon how the medical profession has changed over time, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Clinton Warner reflects upon how the medical profession has changed over time, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Clinton Warner talks about fighting for civil rights through the medical profession, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Clinton Warner talks about fighting for civil rights through the medical profession, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Clinton Warner describes his involvement in a legal suit against segregation in the medical profession and integrating the neighborhood of Southwest Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Clinton Warner talks about integrating Southwest Atlanta, Georgia despite resistance from the mayor and racist neighbors

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Clinton Warner talks about moving to Georgia from St. Louis, Missouri and being met with racism

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Clinton Warner talks about Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Clinton Warner recalls forming the Atlanta Surgical Professional Association

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Clinton Warner talks about Sigma Pi Phi, otherwise known as the Boule, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Clinton Warner talks about Sigma Pi Phi, otherwise known as the Boule, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Clinton Warner comments on the Boule's secrecy and changes in the group

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Clinton Warner talks about his involvement with a black bank in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Clinton Warner talks about how he became chairman of the board of trustees at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Clinton Warner talks about HistoryMaker Louis Sullivan







Clinton Warner talks about his path towards becoming a doctor
Clinton Warner describes the challenges he faced entering the surgical field
Sir, when did you get, I guess, the idea that you might want to be a doctor?$$That's a good question. Can I preface it? Can I tell you what--under that control that I have with my family up to age fifteen when I left to go to college. And I guess sixteen came on at that, shortly after that. I realized I was under control because I saw what other children my age were doing. Things I would, got to say I'd like to be doing, but, "I can't do that, I know the difference." And, and when I got to college [at Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia] I decided that I was going to do all those things. I did poorly in college the first two years. The first thing I did was get drunk. I started smoking. In spite of my shyness I would chase women a little bit, sometimes I didn't know what to say to them and all that stuff, but....$$This was at Morehouse, right?$$Um-hum. Morehouse in 1940, I came out the same year that Benjamin Mays came as the president. And I did that two years just like that. And I wanted--after the second year, I told my parents I wasn't going back to school. I wasn't doing well. I was going to drop out. It helped that I discovered I could get a job at the war department, so might have -- yeah, '42 [1942]. Pearl Harbor was what they were going...They were hiring people for "fourteen-forty-four," fourteen hundred and forty-four dollars a year, a job in the war department. It was a clerical job, (unclear). But I applied for that and got. That was more money than I'd ever heard of, probably more--almost as much as my father was making, $1,444. They didn't like it, but I told them that's what I was going to do, particularly when I got accepted. And I went on, spent a year there, and got drafted. I told them the reason I was dropping out of college because I'm going to get drafted anyway. So let me go and do some things. But, but that was my wild years, wild. And I got drafted, but--now I'm back to the question. At that time I thought I wanted to be a dentist. I wanted--there was only a few things you could strive for as far as a black person, preaching, I didn't want to do that; teaching, I didn't want to do that; physician; I don't think law was available to me in my venue at that time and I never thought of it. I decided I wanted to be a physician. And I got there and I found out how hard it was to do, and said, "Ok, I'll just switch over to dentistry, I'll take the easy road," that, that was my attitude then, a complete reversal. But when I came out of the [U.S.] Army, I knew I had to go back to college.$I was referring to the situation where I found that blacks in this town [Chicago, Illinois], I guess everywhere, I don't know, they're not--they weren't used to hearing about a black surgeon who did only surgery. And thought that--and it was true, that most of the black surgery was done by whites. There was a surgeon here that preceded me. He was not certified, but he was a good surgeon. And as I made my in-roads here, he invited me to join him in practice. However, I was certified and I just wouldn't do that, because he said, "What I want you to do is take night calls for me. And I was scuffling, and maybe help out in surgery sometime, and deliver babies. I said, "Doc, I can't do that." And then he understood why, but he tried to pressure me, and I didn't do it. We remained friends. I'd help him out from time to time, and--but I wouldn't join him in his practice, because he told me, "You can't make it unless you join me", because, I wasn't, you know, I wasn't getting many referrals and all, but gradually I got the trust, I guess, or something and got.... Shortly after I got here it was time for me to apply for the American College of Surgeons, which is a national organization and membership, and that is just the--grouped in the highest thing you could get. One of the requirements was to have three members of the College observe you operate and talk to you and so forth. And I, and I went that route and asked three of my white colleagues to come over. They, they would come to black hospitals and operate on their black patients. And I got to know them, but none had the time. I was refused; they said they don't have the time to do that. So the next year, I went to a meeting and I'd go--I started going to those meetings as a resident, like a student going to these meetings, in Chicago [Illinois]--was the first one I went to. They met in Atlantic City [New Jersey], and I was in this quandary, where nobody would give me the first step, because I knew I could make it into that organization once I got over the step. I ran into Loyal Davis, Loyal Davis, who, who is the father of Nancy Reagan, who used a different name then. He was big shot in surgery. In fact, he was president of the American College of Surgeons at that time. He also published the official journal of surgery, which is (unclear). I still take it. Anyway, I cornered him on the boardwalk in Atlantic City on a lunch break, and he listened to me. He said, "I'm surprised, I didn't know that was happening." He said, "Let me see what I can do about it." I said, "Thank you." I didn't ask him anything, I was just telling him the problems I was having "any suggestions" or something to that--it was a brief conversation. But, within weeks of getting back I got invited to come down, they were going to pass up that--since the surgeons wouldn't agree to come in the room with me, and I'd go before three-member, white panel to interview. And I went, and they were (unclear). I knew them. They were obvious--they hardly even accepted black patients. Lawrence Butler McDowell's [ph.] father was one of them. I, I'm not going to give you the names--he was a local politician. He got killed. But anyway, they grilled me, not about medicine, but about ethics and, and things like that. At the time there was a big thing about fee spreading for surgeons. In other words, if you sent me your patients, I'd pay you some money. I never did that. And, and they just grilled me and said, "We hear the black doctors over there do it all the time." I said, "Well, you heard wrong." You know, I just--and I went on through that, but those were the type of questions--not my capability as a surgeon because they knew that. I had been there long enough. And the next thing I knew, I got, got the approval to join and come up to Chicago again and be inducted, back in '64 [1964] or something, whatever.