“The Doctor Who Would Come”: Anthony Leopold Jordan (18 September 1896-19 December 1971)

Heading east on Route 104, between Greece and Irondequoit, off to the right at 800 Carter Street, one can see a health care facility. Now called the Joseph C. Wilson Health Center, for several years in the early 2000s it was named the Anthony L. Jordan Health Center, the second such facility before Jordan Health expanded to incorporate the multiple locations it operates in Rochester and Canandaigua. According to its website, the mission of Jordan Health is “steeped in service to underserved and uninsured residents, meeting their need for comprehensive health services.” But who was Anthony Jordan? Why was the health center named after him and what contributions did he make to the Rochester area?

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Dr. Anthony L. Jordan (Democrat & Chronicle, March 26, 1967)

Anthony Leopold Jordan was born on September 18th, 1896 in Georgetown, Guyana, where he attended Queen’s College. It is said that following graduation he taught at the college for some time, but a desire to receive training as a lawyer encouraged him to emigrate. He arrived in the United States on June 27th 1919, having sailed to Miami via Havana, Cuba.

Shortly thereafter, he enrolled at Howard University, a Historically Black College in the nation’s capital. His legal training was cut short, however, when he was informed that law was not a “Black man’s career,” and that Black lawyers often had few clients. Seeking a more lucrative profession, Jordan changed his focus to medicine.

Graduating from Howard in 1926, he pursued a medical internship at Richardson Memorial Hospital in Greensboro (Guilford County), North Carolina and later established his practice at High Point in the same county. The family was not happy with the climate there (perhaps racially as well as meteorologically), and so they moved north. They first settled in Newburgh (Orange County), New York, and later relocated to Rochester in 1932.

Setting up a solo practice at the height of the Great Depression was perhaps not the wisest approach for a young and struggling physician. Establishing himself at 136 Adams Street (in Corn Hill, Rochester’s renowned Third Ward), he soon found that much of his business came from the city’s Seventh Ward, a multicultural area in northeast Rochester including  North Clinton, Joseph and Hudson Avenues. Then as now, the neighborhood was largely working class and poor, and though many doctors would not serve its population, Dr. Jordan did. He was known as “the doctor who would come,” when and where he was needed. He continued to make house calls (though many of his colleagues didn’t) until the end of his life when his failing eyesight forced him to stop practicing medicine.

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Portion of the 7th Ward, focus of Dr. Jordan’s practice.

Even before Dr. Jordan was financially stable, he offered his services free of charge to patients in need. He spent many Sunday afternoons giving free examinations to college students and to children going to summer camp. Later in life, he not only provided free medical services to his more indigent patients, but he would also dip into his own pocket for them.

After the establishment of Medicaid in the 1960s, his devotion to the underserved in Rochester was rewarded as he became one of the physicians paid by the county to treat individuals receiving government assistance. He was also honored with a Presidential Citation from the New York State Medical Society for outstanding service.

Dr. Jordan was as committed to education as he was to medicine. He was an active supporter of the United Negro College Fund, which provides funding to Historically Black Colleges and Universities. He was also a major financial backer of the Ralph Bunche Scholarship, established by the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The scholarship provided financial assistance for inner-city youth to attend college, regardless of race, color, ethnicity or gender.

Jordan supported additional uplift efforts through his involvement with the NAACP. Throughout the 1950s, he and other members of the organization worked for greater minority hiring in the city. One of his principal concerns was the lack of African American officers on the Rochester police force. He was also a big proponent of young Black professionals in various fields, serving as a mentor to help them establish a foothold in the local economy.

Dr. Jordan is said to have been a member of half a dozen different community organizations. The only thing that eventually managed to slow him down was his failing health. Two months before his death, he entered Genesee Hospital for cancer surgery. Upon release, he was transferred to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City for cobalt treatments. He was never discharged. He died from his ailment on December 19, 1971 at age 75. Today, his mortal remains are buried at Mount Hope Cemetery.

The year after Dr. Jordan’s death, the People’s Health Council, upon a motion of board member David Gantt, unanimously agreed to name the new health center on Holland Street in his honor.

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Anthony L. Jordan Health Center at 82 Holland Street.

-Christopher Brennan

For More Information:

“About Us,” Jordan Health (http://www.jordanhealth.org/about-us/#history : accessed 6 January 2019).

“Dr. Anthony Jordan,” [obituary], Democrat and Chronicle, 20 December 1971, p. 3B.

Hamm, Mrs. James H., [Letter to the editor], Democrat and Chronicle, 2 January 1972, Section F, p. 3.

Neighborhood and Its Health Care: Annual Report of the Anthony L. Jordan Health Center (Rochester, New York : The Center, 1972).

“Today’s Bouquet,” Democrat and Chronicle, 17 February 1965, p. 8.

United States Naturalization Service, Declaration of Intent, no. 143915 (1919), Anthony Jeopold [sic] Jordan; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 January 1919).

 

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Published in: on February 7, 2019 at 10:00 am  Comments (1)