1866 – 1932
Thomas Unthank rose to prominence as a physician and the “father of Kansas City’s Negro hospitals.” As a youngster, the son of former slaves focused on his education and in 1894 gained admittance to the Howard University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. Settling after graduation in Kansas City, Unthank joined other African American doctors in establishing Douglass Hospital, Lange Hospital, and the Jackson County Home for Aged Negroes.
When a serious flood hit the area in 1903 and an emergency hospital was set up in Convention Hall to help deal with the resulting medical disaster, Unthank was struck by the poor treatment of African Americans there and the need for a city hospital expressly to serve them. Five years later, as General Hospital was set to move into a new facility, he persuaded the city to allow African American patients to be treated in the building left behind.
He would twice serve as superintendent of General Hospital No. 2, as it came to be known. After decades of dedication to Kansas City’s medical community, Unthank died in 1932. A bust was placed in his honor in front of General Hospital No. 2, which was merged in 1957 with the all-white General Hospital No. 1.