1870 – 1962
Dr. J. Edward Perry dedicated his adult life to providing quality health care to Kansas City’s African American community and advancing opportunities for Black physicians and nurses. Perry was born in Clarksville, Texas, the son of former slaves. So intent were his parents on his receiving a formal education that his father walked four miles and cut 40 cords of wood per day to pay for his initial schooling. An advanced student, Perry attended Bishop College at age 15 and held a teaching position by age 21. In 1892 he enrolled in Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, and later completed his post-graduate studies in Chicago.
Perry opened an office in Kansas City in 1903. Recognizing the need for a professional hospital catering to African Americans, he campaigned with another Black physician, Thomas Unthank, to establish General Hospital No. 2 in 1908. Two years later he opened the Perry Sanitarium and Training School for Nurses. The institution was renamed Wheatley-Provident Hospital in 1917 and expanded to a larger facility at 18th Street and Forest Avenue.
Dr. Perry continued to practice medicine until his retirement in 1945. Through his vision, African Americans in Kansas City had better access to health care services and training.