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Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross

Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross was born on November 26, 1937, in Detroit, Michigan. After receiving his high school diploma from Detroit’s Cass Tech High School in 1955, Ross attended the University of Michigan from 1956 to 1958, and Wayne State University from 1958 to 1960; he earned his medical degree from Meharry Medical College in 1964.

After medical school, Ross joined the Navy’s Medical Corps as an intern in 1964, and then worked as a doctor in the U.S. Navy from 1969 through 1973. Becoming a qualified submarine medical officer in 1966, Ross became the first African American submarine doctor in U.S. Navy history. Ross served aboard the U.S.S. George C. Marshall from 1968 to 1969, where he was the first African American officer to receive a Golden Dolphin Award from the U.S. Navy.

After leaving the Navy and moving to Oakland, California, Ross joined the West Oak Health Center as a consultant orthopedic surgeon and teacher; he later became the chief of orthopedics at Herrick Hospital in Berkeley, California.

A member of the Arlington Medical Group, Ross is also a member of the National Medical Association; The American Medical Association; the NAACP; and Alpha Phi Alpha. Ross and his wife, Etna, have raised four children.

Mr. Ross passed away on January 14, 2007.

Accession Number

A2005.089

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/31/2005

Last Name

Ross

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Alexander Jackson

Schools

Cass Technical High School

Sampson Elementary School

Wayne State University

University of Michigan

Meharry Medical College

First Name

William

Birth City, State, Country

Detroit

HM ID

ROS02

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

Southern Spain

Favorite Quote

Let's Roll.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Interview Description
Birth Date

11/26/1937

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Bay Area/Oakland

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Pork Chops, Rice

Death Date

1/14/2007

Short Description

Orthopedic surgeon and physician Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross (1937 - 2007 ) was the first African American submarine doctor in U.S. Navy history and the first African American officer to receive a Golden Dolphin Award from the U.S. Navy. He is chief of orthopedics at Herrick Hospital in Berkeley, California.

Employment

US Naval Yard

West Oak Health Center

Herrick Hospital

Favorite Color

Green Olive

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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278407">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross' interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278408">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278409">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross remembers his mother, Julia Josephine Jackson</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278410">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross describes his father, Turner William Ross</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278411">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross describes his family lineage</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278412">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross describes his earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278413">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross describes his sister, Lula Ross</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278414">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross describes his neighborhood as a child</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278415">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross describes the smells of his childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278416">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross remembers his time at William T. Sampson Elementary School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278417">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross describes Cass Technical High School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278418">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross remembers his sixth grade teacher</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278419">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross describes his activities as a teenager</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278420">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross describes his college experience</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278421">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross remembers being a social worker in college</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278422">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross remembers his time at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278423">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross remembers attending the March on Washington</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278424">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross explains how he became the first black officer on a submarine in the U.S. Navy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278425">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross speaks about being one of the only black officers in the U.S. Navy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278426">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross remembers working at the Newport News Shipyard in Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278427">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross recalls a dangerous incident during submarine training</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278428">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross speaks about his conflicting duties on board the U.S.S. George C. Marshall</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278429">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross remembers his first time rigging the submarine for dive</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278430">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross remembers his interactions with Admiral Hyman G. Rickover</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278431">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross recalls his leisure activities on board the U.S.S. George C. Marshall</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278432">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross describes his extra duties on board the U.S.S. George C. Marshall</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278433">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross remembers receiving the Golden Dolphin Award</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278434">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross talks about his exciting life as a U.S. Navy doctor</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278435">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross explains joining the U.S. Navy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278436">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross recalls being featured in Ebony as a black pioneer</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278437">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross remembers his career path after his patrol in the U.S. Navy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278438">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross remembers working at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in San Diego County, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278439">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross describes his practice in Oakland, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278440">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross reflects on the increase in black orthopedic surgeons</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278441">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross describes his children</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278442">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross describes his relationship with his wife, Etna Ross</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278443">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross remembers being introduced to jazz music by his cousin, musician Tommy Flanagan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278444">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross remembers sharing his father's love of poetry and oration</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278445">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross talks about cooking as his hobby</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278446">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross recalls his fishing trip to the Amazon</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278447">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross explains the importance of family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278448">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross describes his concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278449">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross describes the biggest medical concerns for the black community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278450">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross elaborates on his core values</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278451">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross reflects upon his life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278452">Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross describes how he would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/278453">Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross narrates his photographs</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$2

DAStory

9$4

DATitle
Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross remembers working at the Newport News Shipyard in Virginia
Dr. William Alexander Jackson Ross remembers being a social worker in college
Transcript
By the time I got to the subs [submarines] now--I mean sub school, not, not really much there. Then I got sent--my sub was in Newport News, Virginia. Now things are a little different there, not the [U.S.] Navy per se, but the shipyard was under one of those--you know consent decrees you know to integrate. The shipyard had not, they, they hadn't done too well. They were, they had--they hadn't really hired many blacks in the shipyard and all. So what they usually do is the doctors who came down on the subs they would usually hire them to do the physical exams, and they did that all the time except when I got there. They didn't hire me, so later on eventually somebody said, okay yeah you can work. I mean it's like they sent some tech to tell me I could work.$$So what did you do if you couldn't do the physical exams?$$Oh no, I mean see that was just outside, that was just outside work. You see in other words it wasn't the Navy work.$$Oh okay.$$Where they would just hire the doctors for in the Navy to do, do exams see, and that was just extra pay. So it was just like gravy for the doctors who were there on the subs, so I said so they didn't do that to me. So now what happened was though--so I finally got hired and so one of the reasons they and one of the ways they were getting away or getting around hiring blacks was you had a card, you had-your card for application for employment and on the front of the application for employment, in pencil was either C or W for colored or white, and so that way they'd know who you were so they could hire whoever they wanted and then they could erase that off, see so then it could look like, "Well we just, you know we hired this and that," but on that application card, when the back was the physical exam. So I had all the cards and so what I did was on the physical exam all the people who were Cs, I made them Ws and I took a corresponding number of Ws and made them Cs. So they tell me in the 1967 Newport News Shipyard [Newport News, Virginia] hired more blacks than they ever had in the history of their shipyard, but anyway, but so that was, but that was kinda interesting you know, and then I did--you know, I did exams like everybody else did.$I was gonna say so that wasn't--I was kinda use to doing that, working and going to school so that wasn't really too much.$$And you took science classes in college?$$Oh yeah, right, I was a pre-med, pre-med major, taking all the biology and chemistry, anatomy classes that I needed for that. I had a job at the--I was a social worker, ADC, Aid to Dependent Children, that's what I did in Detroit [Michigan] until I went to med school [at Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tennessee]. I got that job, actually they were desperate. In there, there are different areas in Detroit obviously like all cities, and there's one area in Detroit which was bound by streets called Hastings [Street], St. Antoine [Street], Rivard [Street], and Riopelle [Street] and at that time in the '50s [1950s] those were some--that was a bad neighborhood, really bad. It was deemed as one of the worse areas in the city for everything, crime, et cetera and apparently they'd had various ADC workers--in those days the ADC, the workers had to go into the houses and that sort of thing and walk the streets and--they had had apparently a white male there and he had been threatened with his life so he had to leave there. They had a white female and I think they threatened her also, a lot of different ways apparently. They had a black female who had a nervous breakdown. So what they hadn't had was a black male. Now there were some rules and regulations and requirements for being a social worker. Number one, they wanted you to be twenty-one, number two they wanted you to have a car, number three they wanted you to at least be interested in social work. Okay, I wasn't twenty-one, didn't have a car, wasn't really interested in social work--I got the job. Took the test boom, got the job. I did not know at that time (laughter) that the reason why I got the job I didn't know where I was gonna be assigned. So, when they told me what my area was I said, ooh. I mean I've been living in Detroit almost twenty years I'd never even been in these areas. So what I decided was this, I said the area, the grapevine will know who I am, and they will decide whether they're gonna let me survive or not. So my first move for a week or so was just to walk through the area. See, I didn't even have a car so I'm getting off the bus in this tough area. So I just walked through area, every day I just walked through, walked through the whole area, didn't carry anything, didn't have anything, just walking through knowing that they would know who I was, and then, then after about a couple of weeks I took my briefcase, started going to see the folks, and what happened was is they had decided that they would let me slide, they didn't bother me. So I stayed there and I worked and then until I got ready to go to med school. So they didn't--it was nice, I learned a lot that was--that was probably one of the most educational jobs that I've ever had in my life. I mean I learned about people, where people, I learned people--I mean, everybody who's a prostitute doesn't necessarily have a bad heart. People want good things for their children even though they're not doing good things or and that sort of thing. So I mean I just I really learned a lot 'cause I never, I never had any personal contact with anybody like that, with people like that. So it was, it was, it was an experience, it was a great experience, and then when I left actually--and then I guess I became a social worker then. I'm taking blankets outta the house and stuff, I go get an old heater. My mother [Julia Jackson Ross] was saying, "Where you going with that?" I said, "Mom, we got more stuff here than the law allows," you know, and then she use to give stuff away and everything so you know I mean, I'm just, I'm just following what you use to do all the time. So anyway, so I would take stuff around and if people didn't have shoes you know, and I'm taking stuff and, and so when I left they gave me a little party, kinda the block folks did. So it was nice, I mean that was kinda like my reward, but, it was very enjoyable. I learned a lot, I learned a lot about people. I learned how to get along too.