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Physicians, Educators, and Organization Leaders of the Boston-Edison Historic District

Emil Amberg

Dr. Emil Amberg was born in 1868 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His family emigrated to Germany when he was five, and Emil was educated in Prussia and Westphalia, and received his medical degree from the University of Heidelberg in 1894. He interned in Boston, Massachusetts, and trained further in Vienna and Berlin before moving permanently to Detroit in 1898. There he worked at both Harper and Grace Hospitals, and served as the otologist for the Detroit Day School for the Deaf. Dr. Amberg was a prolific contributor to medical journals, a a member of multiple professional societies, and worked to establish interstate reciprocity for medical licensure. In 1909 he married Cecile Siegel, daughter of Jacob Siegel. 

Emil and Cecile Amberg lived at 1244 W. Boston Boulevard from the 1920s through the 1940s, in the same home that Otto Kern lived.

Joseph H. Andries

Joseph Andries was born in 1875 in Milwaukee. His parents soon moved to Detroit, where his father founded two German-language newspapers and where Joseph was educated. He attended the University of Detroit and then studied medicine in Berlin, graduating in 1897. He pursued postgraduate studies in Europe and returned to Detroit in 1899. He joined the staff of St. Mary's Hospital, and was the clinical professor of surgery at the Detroit College of Medicine. Andries married Charlotte Friede in 1903. In addition to his profession, Andries amassed a varied collection of art, including old European Masters. 

Joseph H. Andries lived at 1241 Edison from the late 1910s through the 1940s.

Robert C. Bennett

Robert C. Bennett was born in New York in 1911, and attended Meharry Medical School in Nashville. He became chief of staff of Kirkwood General Hospital in Detroit. Throughout his career, he was interested in the sports world, and was personal physician to a string of world champion boxers, including Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, Sonny Liston, and Ike Williams. In 1955, he was named to the board of directors of the Detroit Race Course, and also was the medical examiner for the Michigan State Athletic Board of Control. He died in 1975.

Dr. Robert C Bennett lived at 2215 W. Boston beginning in the early 1950s, in the house earlier occupied by Charles E. Feinberg.

Augustus J Calloway, Jr.

Augustus J Calloway

Augustus J Calloway, Jr. was born in 1908 in Texarkana, Texas. He graduated from the University of Michigan and went to work for Michigan Bell Telephone Company, working in a variety of management positions. In 1972, Calloway was promoted to assistant vice president for Urban Affairs at Michigan Bell, one of the first African-American executives at that company. He was elected to the Wayne State Board of Governors in 1968, and remained on the Board until 1977, serving two terms as its chair. He was also President of the Board of Southwest Detroit Hospital, and served on the Boards of the Detroit Urban League, the Detroit Medical Center, and the Federated Home for Girls among others. 

Augustus J Calloway, Jr. lived at 2065 Edison from the late 1950s until his death in 1977.

Wendell F. Cox

Wendell F. Cox

Wendell F. Cox was born in 1914 in Georgia. In the same year, his family moved to Charleston SC, where Cox spent his boyhood. He received an undergraduate degree from Talladega College in 1936, then went on to receive a degree in dentistry from Meharry Medical College in 1944. While at Meharry, he met and married Iris Bell of Detroit, daughter of the famous Dr. Haley Bell. After graduation, Cox served in the US Army through the rest of the war, being discharged as a Captain. After the war, Bell moved to Detroit, where he went into practice with his father-in-law. Within a few years, he had opened up his own successful practice in Hamtramck. In the early 50s, Cox and Bell again partnered to work on opening a radio station. In 1956, the two men launched the nation's first Black-owned and operated radio station built from the ground up: WCHB AM (the call letters come from the two men's initials: Wendell Cox, Haley Bell). A few years after, WCHD (later WJZZ) FM was added. Cox, served as Vice President, then General Manager and Chairman of the Board of the Bell Broadcasting Company.

Dr. Cox also sustained a deep connection with Meharry Medical College throughout his life. He served on the Meharry Board of Trustees for 22 years and was elected a Lifetime Trustee in 1989. In 1998, he donated $1.5 million to Meharry in the names of Iris B. and Wendell F. Cox, D.D.S. 

Wendell F. Cox lived at 1961 Chicago Boulevard beginning in the 1950s.

Albertus Darnell

Albertus Darnell was born in Illinois in 1868, and came to Michigan in 1894 to attend the University of Michigan. After graduation, he began work as a mathematics teacher, first in Bay City and later Detroit, being named head of the Mathematics Department at Detroit's Central High School in 1902. When Detroit Junior College was organized in 1917, Darnell became head of its Mathematics Department. In 1923, Detroit Junior College was replaced by the City College of Detroit,and Darnell was named Assistant Dean. He continued in this position until City College merged with other institutions to become Wayne (later Wayne State) University in 1934, when he was named Dean of the College of Liberal Arts of the new University. Darnell continued in this position until his retirement in 1939. 

Albertus Darnell lived at 1216 Edison from the early 1910s through the late 1940s.

Read some of Albertus Darnell's papers in the archives at Wayne State University.

C. Beth DunCombe 

C. Beth DunCombe attended Cass Tech, the University of Michigan, and Georgetown University Law School. In 1974, she went to work for an influential Detroit law firm and eventually made partner. Mayor Dennis Archer appointed her chair and CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. During this time, she headed a number of major construction initiatives in Detroit, including Comerica Park, Campus Martius, and the building of the casinos. 

C. Beth DunCombe resided at 1642 Longfellow, along with her sister, Trudy DunCombe Archer.

Dr. Nellie H. Ebersole

Dr. Nellie Huger Ebersole was born in New Hudson, Michigan, in 1898. She held degrees from Eastern Michigan University, the Chicago Training School, and Union Theological Seminary in New York. She became a licensed minister in 1922, and in 1928 became minister of music at the Highland Park Congregational Church. In 1931, she founded the Waldenwood Summer School of Sacred Music in Hartland, Michigan. She and her husband, Prof. Amos S. Ebersole, were the directors of the Art Center Music School in Detroit. Her students include George Shirley, soloist with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, and Hugh Downs, commentator on "20/20".

Nellie Ebersole lived at 736 Chicago beginning in the 1950s.

Hugo A. Freund, M.D.

Hugo Freund was born in Detroit in 1886. He received his medical degree from the University of Michigan, and in 1909 joined the staff of Harper Hospital. In 1927, Freund became chief of Harper's Department of Internal Medicine; he was also Professor of Clinical Medicine at Wayne State University. He also was a member of the Detroit Board of Health, Detroit Welfare Commission, and the Board of Trustees of Oakland Hospital; and was the president of the Children's Fund of Michigan (established by his good friend James Couzens) and of Child Research Center. 

Hugo A. Freund lived at 52 Chicago Boulevard from 1916 through the late 1930s.

Nathan D. Grundstein

Nathan D. Grundstein was born in Ashland, Ohio, in 1913. He attended Ohio State University, where he met his future wife, Dorothy D. Grundstein. Nathan went onto receive a Ph.D. in Political Science from Syracuse University and an LLD from George Washington University. He worked as an administrative officer in the War Production Board from 1941-1947. He and his wife Dorothy moved to 826 Longfellow in 1947, when he assumed a post as Professor of public law and administration at Wayne State University. Nathan Grundstein died in 2000.

Dorothy and Nathan Grundstein, along with their four children, lived at 826 Longfellow from 1947-1958. 

Harold J. Harrison

Harold Jerome Harrison was born in 1912. He attended Moorehouse College in Atlanta, and received a doctorate from Wayne State University. In 1952, he was named the principal of Miller High School, the first African-American to be a principal in the Detroit school system. He eventually became assistant superintendent of the school system. Harrison died in 1973.

Harold J Harrison lived at 1542 Edison in the 1950s and 60s.

Marcellius Ivory

Marcellius Ivory was born in 1916. In 1937, he joined the UAW while employed at L.A. Young Spring and Wire (owned by Leonard A. Young). He was elected Regional Director of UAW Region 1A in 1968, the first African-American to be elected to a regional directorship. As director, he established an regional Advisory Council of local Union presidents, an Youth Council, and represented the UAW during the rewriting of the Detroit City Charter. He served as regional director until his retirement for health reasons in 1976. Ivory died in 1981.

Marcellius Ivory lived at 2245 Longfellow from the early 1960s into the 1970s.

Waldo Emerson Lessenger

Waldo Lessenger was born in 1898 in Irwin, Iowa. He attended in State University of Iowa, and in 1919 began teaching. In 1920 he became superintendent of schools in Radcliffe, Iowa. He continued to attend the University, and in 1925 received his doctorate degree. After graduation, he accepted a position at the Detroit Teacher's College, the forerunner of Wayne State's College of Education. In 1931, he became Dean of the College. He served as president of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and was the first chairman of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. After World War II, Lessenger worked as a government consultant, helping to establish teacher training schools in Indonesia, Thailand, Ethiopia, and the Netherlands. He remained as Dean of the College until his death in 1955.

Waldo Emerson Lessenger lived at 2300 Edison on the 1930s and 40s.

Hubert G. Locke

Hubert Gaylord Locke was born in Detroit in 1934. He attended Detroit schools, and received a bachelor's degree from Wayne State University in 1955, and a degree in divinity from the University of Chicago in 1959. He assumed the pastorship of the Church of Christ of Conant Gardens, a position he held for twelve years. Meanwhile, he continued his studies, but was drawn to the civil rights movement, and in 1962 left school to become the executive director of the Detroit group, Citizen's Community for Equal Opportunity. In 1966, Locke accepted a position created by Detroit mayor Jerome Cavanagh inside the Detroit Police Department, where he was stationed during the 1967 civil unrest in Detroit. With this first-hand experience, he wrote the well-regarded book, The Detroit Riot of 1967.

For the following years, Locke served as an Adjunct Professor at Wayne State university. In 1972, he moved on to become the head of the College of Public Affairs at the University of Nebraska Omaha. In 1976, he moved on t the University of Washington, where he was Vice Provost for Academic Affairs. In 1982, he became dean of the School of Public Affairs, a position he held until 1987. He taught at the University until his retirement in 1999. Hubert Locke died in 2018.

Hubert G. Locke lived at 2016 W. Boston in the late 1960s.

Read Locke's book, The Detroit Riot of 1967, or read a biography of Hubert Locke, or listen to an interview.

Dr. James J. McClendon

James McClendon was born in Georgia and graduated from Atlanta University and Meharry Medical College. In Detroit, he spearheaded the NAACP's membership drive, and became president of the Detroit chapter in 1937. He later held a position on the National Board of the NAACP. 

Dr. McClendon lived at 2341 W. Boston Boulevard from the 1950s through the 1970s, in the house once owned by Arthur F. Tull.

Dr. David C. Northcross

David C. Northcross

David C. Northcross was born in Alabama in 1915. His parents, both doctors, operated a hospital in Montgomery, but were forced to flee the Ku Klux Klan and moved to Detroit in 1916. In 1917, they opened the first Black-owned and operated proprietary hospital in Detroit, Mercy General Hospital. Northcross grew up in Detroit, and attended the University of Detroit before going to Nashville, Tennessee to attend Meharry Medical College and Fisk University. As a student, he served in WWII with the Medical Corps of the Army; he was later called to serve during the Korean war. After his military service was complete in 1955, Northcross returned to Detroit to help run Mercy General with his mother. He eventually ran the hospital himself, overseeing its operation for over twenty years. 

David C. Northcross lived at 2314 Longfellow in the 1950s and 1960s.

William H. Oliver

William Oliver was born in Tennessee in 1915 and came to Detroit in the late 1937 as part of a singing group sponsored by Ford Motor Company. When the group was disbanded two years later, he got a job at Ford's Highland Park plant. In 1942, he became the recording secretary for the plant local, one of the first African-Americans to hold such a position. In 1947, Walter P. Reuther appointed Oliver co-director of the UAW's Fair Practices and Anti-Discrimination Department. In 1971, Oliver was named the sole director of the department, and held that post until his retirement in 1980. Oliver also served as vice president of the NAACP National Board. 

William H. Oliver lived at 1743 Edison in the 1950s and 1960s.

Victor A. Rapport

Victor Rapport was born in 1903. In the 1930s, he took a position as a professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut. WWII interrupted his career, and he served in the US Army from 1940-1946, leaving as a major. After the war, Rapport came to Detroit, taking the position as dean of Wayne State University's College of Liberal Arts (the same position held by Albertus Darnell), where he served from 1946 - 1960. 

Victor A. Rapport lived at 2234 Chicago Boulevard in the 1940s and 1950s.

Walter P. Reuther

Walter P. Reuther

Walter Reuther was born in Wheeling, West Virginia in 1907. After an apprenticeship in tool and die work, he left for Detroit and eventually became a die leader for Ford, but was eventually fired in 1932 for socialist activity. He left Detroit for a while, but eventually returned and became involved in the organized labor movement. By 1937 he was president of the United Auto Workers local and a member of the UAW executive board. He organized several successful strikes against the automotive companies in Detroit.

During WWII, Reuther was instrumental in converting unused automobile factories to the construction of planes. Although he turned down several positions offered him by the Roosevelt White House, he became lifelong friends with Eleanor Roosevelt. Walter Reuther was elected president of the UAW in 1946; in that position he continued to fight for higher wages for automotive workers. Reuther remained president of the UAW until 1970, when a plane crash ended his life.

Walter P. Reuther lived at 2292 Longfellow in the 1950s.

Read more about Walter Reuther from Time Magazine; also read his obituary in the New York Times.

Remus G. Robinson, M.D.

Remus G. Robinson, M.D.

Remus Grant Robinson was born in 1904, and graduated from the University of Michigan with a medical degree in 1930. He spent his career as a surgeon at Grace and Providence hospitals, and as chief surgeon at Parkside. In 1955, Robinson won a seat on the Detroit School Board, the first African-American to do so. He held the seat until his death in 1970, spending much of the time as the Board's president. Robinson also served as president of the Detroit Urban League. 

Remus G. Robinson lived at 664 Chicago Boulevard in the 1950s and 1960s.

Ruth Rutzen

Ruth Rutzen was born in 1897 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. She attended the library school at the University of Wisconsin, and after graduation worked at three small libraries in the state. In 1924, she accepted a position at the Detroit Public Library. She was soon named the Director of Home Reading Services. In her position, she helped establish book discussion groups, spearheaded outreach programs, established an improved book checkout system and implemented innovative book classification systems. She served as president of the Michigan Library Association in 1938-39, president of the Public Library Association in 1952-53, and served as chair of the American Library Association's Adult Education Board. She retired in 1963, and died in 1981.

Ruth Rutzen lived at 2234 Longfellow in the 1940s and 50s.

Ola Mae Spinks

Ola Mae Walker was born in 1914 in rural Louisiana. In 1922 her family moved to Vernon, Oklahoma, where she attended elementary school. She attended Manual Training High School in Muskogee, Oklahoma, 60 miles away. In 1934 she was awarded a scholarship to attend college, and in 1938 graduated from Philander Smith College in Little Rock with a bachelor’s degree in home economics. She began teaching, and married  William Spinks the next year. The couple had two sons, but divorced in 1949. In 1954, Ola Mae Spinks moved to Detroit.

Spinks taught first grade in the Pontiac public schools, then earned a master’s degree in library science from Wayne State University in 1961. She continued her career as a middle-school librarian. In 1972, she and another librarian volunteered at the Library of Congress indexing the unorganized paperwork about slavery in Alabama and Arkansas. This became part of the Library's collection known as the "Slave Narratives." Spinks retired in 1976. In her retirement, she traveled widely snd remained active in the community. Ola Mae Spinks died in 2020, at the age of 106.

Ola Mae Spinks lived at 1701 Longfellow from 1959 to 2017.

Read Ola Mae Spinks's obituary in the New York Times.

Edward M. Swan

Edward M. Swan was born in 1910. He graduated from Eastern Michigan University. He was secretary for Michigan Governor William A. Comstock, then went on to leadership positions at Detroit's Coordinating Council on Human Relations and the President's Committee on Fair Employment Practices. He led Detroit's TB and Health Society for nine years, and also led Detroit's branch of the NAACP, the largest in the nation. 

Edward M. Swan lived at 2452 Edison from the 1950s until his death in 1969.

Junius Taylor

Junius Taylor was born in North Carolina in 1913. He graduated from Virginia Union University, then attended Meharry Medical College, where he received a medical degree in 1939. During WWII, he was stationed at the Tuskegee VA Hospital in Alabama. He later opened the first wing for Black veterans at the VA Hospital in Roanoke VA. In 1946, he became a consulting psychiatrist and moved to Detroit to work at their VA Hospital. He later worked at Detroit Recorder's Court as chief psychiatrist. He continued to work there until his death in 1981.

Junius Taylor lived at 2435 West Boston (earlier home to Carl Breer and David Wilkus) in the 1950s and 60s.

Alf E. Thomas, Jr.

Alfred E. (Alf) Thomas, Jr. was born in 1908 in Birmingham, Alabama, the son of prominent physician Alfred E. Thomas, Sr. He graduated from the Ferris Institute, and in 1937 received a medical degree from Meharry College. He interned at Eloise Hospital in Ypsilanti, then joined his father in Detroit, where the elder Thomas had founded two hospitals: the Bethesda Hospital and the Edyth K. Thomas Memorial Hospital. The pair of hospitals were at the time the largest private hospitals in America that served African-American patients.

During Word War II, Thomas served flight surgeon for the 99th Pursuit Squadron based in Tuskegee Alabama (the Tuskegee Airmen), and left the Army with a rank of Lieutenant Colonel. In 1947, he married the recently widowed Marion Turner Stubbs, a concert pianist and founder of Jack and Jill of America. Thomas went on to found the Haynes Memorial Hospital in Detroit in 1950, and inherited the Bethesda and Edyth K. Thomas Hospitals from his father when the latter died in 1956. By this time, Thomas was one of the richest African-Americans in the United States, and he and his wife were leading lights in the Detroit social scene in the 1950s and 1960s.

Alf E. Thomas Jr. lived at 885 West Boston in the late 1960s, until his death in 1968.

Marion Turner Stubbs Thomas

Marion Turner was born in 1910 in Philadelphia to a prominent physician. She went on to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania in 1930, then attended the Sorbonne in Paris and the elite Zeckwer-Hahn Musical Academy in Philadelphia, becoming the first African-American to graduate from the institution.  She performed as a concert pianist and taught music. In 1934, she married surgeon Frederick Douglass Stubbs. In 1938, as a young mother, she invited a group of friends to her home to propose the founding of a social club to connect the children of Black families. From this meeting, the Jack and Jill Club of America was formed.

Her husband Frederick died in 1947, and Marion married Detroit physician Alf E. Thomas, Jr. later that year. Thomas owned two hospitals, and was one of the richest African-Americans in the United States, and the couple were leading lights in the Detroit social scene in the 1950s and 1960s. After Alf Thomas died in 1968, Marion quietly retired to the east coast, and passed away in 1994.

Marion Turner Stubbs Thomas lived at 885 West Boston in the late 1960s.

Arthur L. Thompson

Arthur Lee Thompson was born in Tennessee in 1916, the son of Dr. W.A. Thompson and his wife Mamie. In 1924, the family moved to Detroit, where W.A. Thompson became chief of staff of Parkside Hospital. Arthur Thompson attended Fisk University, then received a medical degree from Meharry Medical College in 1942. He undertook his internship and residency in Nashville, specializing in pediatrics. In 1944 Thompson was commissioned in the US Navy, becoming the first African American physician in the Navy. After the war, Thompson returned to Detroit and became the first African American to take a residency at the Children's Hospital of Michigan. He was later appointed to the executive board of the hospital staff, and served as president of the Detroit Pediatric Society.

Arthur L. Thompson lived at 1655 W. Boston from the 1950s until his death in the 1990s. His family lived in the home until 2018.

Arthur F. Tull

Arthur F. Tull was born in Kansas in 1880. He completed a course in teaching at the Kansas Central Normal College, then graduated from a business college in Illinois. He taught public school until 1906, at which time he founded the Business Institute of Detroit. In 1913, he assumed the presidency of the Institute. 

Arthur F. Tull lived at 1610 Edison in the 1920s, then in the 1930s and 40s lined in 2341 W. Boston Boulevard, the same house later owned by Dr. James J. McClendon.

Mary E. von Mach

Mary E. von Mach

Mary von Mach was born in 1895, and was the first woman in the state of Michigan to be granted a pilot's license (in 1928), was the first woman to own and operate a plane in the state, and was the first woman accepted at the prestigious Parks Air College in St. Louis, graduating in 1931. During the same year, she became the first woman in Michigan to receive an air transport license, and earned a flight instructor's rating.

She also participated in the first Women's Air Derby, along with Amelia Earhart, flying from Santa Monica CA to Cleveland OH. After the Derby, women pilots organized in a professional group called the "Ninety Nines." Earhart was the first president of the organization, and von Mach established the Michigan chapter in 1934, holding many offices in the organization at both the state and national level. During WW II, von Mach worked as a final inspector for Pratt-Whitney on their B-24 engine line. She later became a saleswoman for a paint company. 

Mary E. von Mach lived at 829 Chicago Boulevard.

John Taylor Watkins

John Taylor Watkins was born in 1883 in Whitmore Lake, MI. The family moved to Milford and Howell, and Watkins attended the University of Michigan, graduating in 1906. He received his medical degree, again from the University of Michigan, in 1906. He practiced in Dollar Bay for two years before coming to Detroit, where he opened a private practice specializing in internal medicine. He joined the staff of Grace Hospital in 1914, becoming chief of internal medicine in 1919, He was appointed professor of clinical medicine at the Detroit College of Medicine in 1920. 

John Taylor Watkins lived at 53 Longfellow from the early 1910s through the 1940s.

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