A Biography of Dr. Aaron M. McMillan

This picture shows Dr. Aaron Manasses McMillan, his wife Willena, his sons Aaron and Robert, and his young daughter Helen. This photo is circa 1935.

A doctor, politician and noted international medical missionary, Dr. Aaron M. McMillan (1895-1980) was a pivotal force in North Omaha. After serving in the Nebraska Legislature from 1928 to 1929, he served as a hospital-founder and physician in Angola for 17 years. Then he came back to North Omaha, where he provided free healthcare for five years before going back into private practice.

This is Dr. Aaron Manasses McMillan (1895-1980), a noted missionary doctor, Omaha politician and African American community leader.
This is Dr. Aaron Manasses McMillan (1895-1980), a noted missionary doctor, Omaha politician and African American community leader.

Dr. McMillan became a wildly popular figure throughout his life in the community. He moved to the city in 1922 when he was 27-years-old. By then, McMillan graduated from the Cotton Plant Academy in Arkansas in 1915, earned his bachelor’s degree at Bishop College in Dallas in 1919, and completed his medical studies at Meharry Medical College in Nashville in 1923.

Dr. Aaron M. McMillan (1939) "Through the Years in Medical Work in Africa," presented at the June 1939 Annual Meeting of the Protestant Missions of Angola in June 1939.
Dr. McMillan presented this report, “Through the Years in Medical Work in Africa” at the June 1939 Annual Meeting of the Protestant Missions of Angola.

When he was at Bishop College, McMillan met his wife Willena. She also graduated from Bishop College, teaching at Houston College and Texas A&M College in Fort Worth. McMillan decided to move to Omaha after visiting his father, who was the minister at Mt. Moriah Baptist Church.

Just a year after arriving, McMillan was added to the ballot as a last minute candidate to challenge Dr. John A. Singleton, DDS for a seat in the Nebraska Legislature. The effort worked and he was elected to represent North Omaha’s Ninth District. McMillan immediately became a member of the Douglas County Republican Committee and delegate to state Republican convention.

In his 1980 obituary, it was noted that during his early years in Omaha, he provided the first professional office space for Omaha’s NAACPand was the first Omahan to buy a lifetime membership to the organization.

The Missionary Doctor

This is a historic pic of the Willis F. Pierce Memorial Hospital in Galangue, Angola, built with donations secured by Dr. Aaaron M. McMillan. Dr. McMillan served as a medical missionary in Angola for 17 years.

However, that same year he was elected, he was invited by the Black Congregational Church and the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to serve as a medical missionary. Leaving his term early, in 1929 McMillan and his wife left for the School of Tropical Medicine in Lisbon, Portugal, for an 18-month program of post-graduate studies. In 1931, they became the first American medical missionaries in Portuguese West Africa, later called Angola. The facility they served at was called the the Galangue Mission. Founded in 1923, Galangue was the first mission founded and staffed by African Americans in Angola.

Willis E. Pierce Memorial Hospital, Bungei Mission, Huíla, Angola
This is a 2011 photo of the Willis E. Pierce Memorial Hospital at the Bungei Mission in Huíla, Angola. Built by the determination of Dr. Aaron McMillan starting in 1935. It lasted around 25 years before closing.

During their 17 years there, the McMillan’s secured donations from the United States to build a modern medical complex at the Galangue Mission called the Willis F. Pierce Memorial Hospital. When they left, the facility had 4-acres with 45 buildings, including a 2-story building, 130 beds, modern equipment, a chapel, and training facilities for staff.

Returning to Omaha

This is Dr. Aaron McMillan on safari in Angola. He is shown with an 11' lion he presumably hunted circa 1933.
This is Dr. Aaron McMillan on safari in Angola. He is shown with an 11′ lion he presumably hunted circa 1933.

Aaron and Willena moved back to Omaha 1948.

When he returned to North Omaha, he opened the People’s Hospital at North 20th and Grace Streets. He also volunteered with the NAACP, the Omaha Housing Authority Board, and other organizations. Dr. McMillan spoke nationally about his experience, too, and was regarded highly around the country. Later he served on the staff at Children’s Hospital and Methodist Hospital, both in Omaha.

Dr. Aaron Manasses McMillan died on June 1, 1980 in Inglewood, California. His wife Willena died in 1970.

Today, there are no monuments or historical markers in Omaha to celebrate the life and accomplishments of Dr. McMillan.

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BONUS PIC

Dr. Aaron M. McMillan (1895-1980) of North Omaha served as an African American member of the Nebraska Legislature from 1929 to 1930.
Dr. Aaron M. McMillan (1895-1980) served as an African American member of the Nebraska Legislature from 1929 to 1930.

Published by Adam

I am a speaker, writer and consultant focused on youth engagement. I also share the history of North Omaha, Nebraska.

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