In June 1945, several African American doctors with the Nebraska Negro Medical Society announced the formation of the Provident Hospital, intended to serve North Omaha’s African American community.
Dr. Craig Morris, DDS, Dr. Herbert Wiggins, Dr. Gooden, and Dr. Milton Johnson joined with Mrs. Gooden, Hiram D. Dee, C. C. Galloway and attorney Charles Davis in a planning committee. They bought land at North 28th and Wirt Streets, next to the future site of the Spencer Street Public Housing Project, and the news was covered in the Omaha Star and the Omaha World-Herald.
Provident Hospital was planned to operate as a nonprofit corporation to serve “the community rich and poor alike,” with “complete assurance” that “no discrimination will be made against race, creed or color.”
Omaha’s Provident Hospital was likely modeled off of Chicago’s hospital of the same name. Founded in 1894, it was created by African Americans for African Americans in a deeply segregated Northern city. With rampant Jim Crow rules around the city, Omaha’s Black community was due the same as Chicago. (It was closed in 1987.)
In July 1945, it was announced that plans had been drawn up and a budget created. A fundraising goal of $270,000 was set, and the site was purchased. Some of the sponsors of the hospital included D. W. Gooden, W. W. Peebles, Milton Johnson, Clarence Singleton, G. B. Lennox, S. B. Northcross, Wesley Jones, and attorney Charles F. Davis. Hiram D. Dee was named chairman of the building committee and was in charge of construction.
It was planned to be a 50-bed facility in the Bedford Park addition, just off North 30th Street. Built with four stories, it would feature an emergency drive up, a wide lawn and modern facilities.
The planning committee met at the Elks Club on Lake Street for a year to plan it, and received an endorsement from the National Urban League declaring that Omaha needed an African American hospital. Dr. Craig Morris said,
“Negro physicians cannot rise to their highest ability under the present set-up.”
Creating the hospital was an attempt to keep young African American surgeons from leaving Omaha, because the city was experiencing them getting an education here and then moving away, and never returning.
Referred to as a “mid-city hospital,” the facility was assured to definitely be happening by the Omaha Star in September 1945. In October 1945, the Providence Hospital Association was formally incorporated with Dr. Morris as the president. His offices were at 2403 Lake Street. Other officers were Dr. D. W. Gooden, first vice-president; Dr. S. B. Northcross, second vice-president; Dr. J. J. Jones, third vice-president; Dr. A. L. Hawkins, secretary, and; Dr. Herbert Wiggins, treasurer. A citizens advisory committee was planned, and a fundraising campaign was going to be launched in December.
Then, after 1945, I can find no further mention of the Providence Hospital. There’s nothing in the Omaha Star, Omaha World-Herald, or the Omaha Guide. There’s no mention in Mildred Brown’s book, or other less popular sources of African American history in Omaha.
While their drawings never left the table, another African American doctor took it upon himself to open a neighborhood hospital for Black patients just three years later. The People’s Hospital opened in 1948 about a mile from the site where Provident Hospital was to be built.
In 1952, the Spencer Street Public Housing Projects were built on land immediately north of the hospital land, and eventually a new set of project homes were built on the hospital land itself.
Dr. Craig Morris, the leader of the effort, retired in 1959 and moved away from North Omaha. He died in 1977.
MY ARTICLES ABOUT CIVIL RIGHTS IN OMAHA
General: History of Racism | Timeline of Racism
Events: Juneteenth | Malcolm X Day
Issues: African American Firsts in Omaha | Police Brutality | North Omaha African American Legislators | North Omaha Community Leaders
People: Rev. Dr. John Albert Williams | Edwin Overall | Harrison J. Pinkett | Vic Walker | Joseph Carr | Rev. Russel Taylor | Dr. Craig Morris | Mildred Brown | Dr. John Singleton | Ernie Chambers | Malcolm X
Organizations: Omaha Colored Commercial Club | Omaha NAACP | Omaha Urban League | 4CL | DePorres Club | Omaha Black Panthers | City Interracial Committee | Providence Hospital | American Legion | Elks Club | Prince Hall Masons
Related: Black History | African American Firsts