Samuel U. Rodgers

Samuel U. Rodgers
Rodgers (Photo Credit: Black Archives of Mid-America)


Dr. Samuel U. Rodgers dedicated his life and career to providing health care to those who needed it most, explaining, “To be poor is really tough, to be sick is really tough, but to be both, there’s nothing worse.” In helping countless Kansas Citians, he also helped break color barriers in the city’s medical community.

Rodgers was born in 1917 in Aniston, Alabama, where he found an early role model in his father, a small-town doctor who never refused to treat patients — even those who couldn’t pay for his services. After earning a degree at Talladega College in Alabama, he studied medicine at Howard University in Washington, D.C., then one of just two medical schools open to Black students in the country.

After graduation, Rodgers accepted an internship at Kansas City’s General Hospital No. 2, the city’s segregated hospital for Black patients. However, like many of his colleagues, he soon left to serve with the Army Medical Corps during World War II, earning a combat medical badge and promotion to the rank of major. While overseas, Rodgers also met his first wife, Elizabeth Pullam, with whom he returned to Kansas City in 1947.

Rodgers had seen in the military that hospitals could treat both patients and health care professionals equitably and found the conditions back home at General Hospital No. 2 unacceptable. He and his colleagues routinely dealt with supply shortages and inferior equipment. They were also denied training by the white medical community, affecting the services and expertise they could offer.

In response, Rodgers and a group of fellow Black doctors went on strike, demanding an end to the inequitable treatment. After just a few days, the city agreed to their demands and General Hospital No. 2 soon began offering specialty training programs for its Black doctors.

In addition to his medical training, Rodgers obtained a master’s degree in public health from the University of Michigan in 1967. He also helped found one of the first private practices for Black doctors in the city and was named in 1968 as executive director of the Wayne Miner Health Center, a small clinic organized to provide health care to underserved residents in the urban core. Through his dedication, the WMHC expanded services over the years and, in 1988, was renamed the Samuel U. Rodgers Community Health Center in his honor.

After his first wife, who had helped him grow the WMHC, passed away in 1985, Rodgers married former Jackson County legislator and community leader Mamie Hughes. Together, they continued to work tirelessly on behalf of the city’s underprivileged.

Rodgers passed away in 1999 at age 82. Today the health center that bears his name continues to provide high-quality, compassionate, and affordable health care for all.