A Biography of Dr. John A. Singleton, DDS

John Andrew Singleton (1895-1970)

John Andrew Singleton was born on July 30, 1895 in Omaha, and was a graduate of Omaha Central High School.

After the first African American Legislature was elected in Nebraska in 1892, took more than a quarter century and another lynching for North Omaha to elect another. Then, they elected two Black men to the Nebraska House of Representatives in 1926.

One new legislator was Dr. John Singleton, a dentist on North 24th Street and the son of a political activist in Omaha. He was a Republican who became a Democrat, and represented the Ninth District.

Very active in local politics, John A. Singleton graduated from Central High and moved back to Omaha after graduating from Howard University. Setting up his dentistry office at 24th and Lake around 1920, he was the Deputy Register of Deeds for Douglas County in the 1920s, and was a delegate to the Republican County Central Committee in 1926.

Singleton supported the city’s Democrat mayor Cowboy Jim Dahlman and was active in Tom Dennison’s political machine. After his first term, singleton ran four more times and lost each election. During the campaign for his election in 1926, Dr. Singleton participated in fake Klu Klux Klan cross burnings to smear opponents of Dennison’s machine, and was formally endorsed by Omaha’s KKK chapter.

Singleton was elected president of the Omaha NAACP in 1929, and served until 1933. It might have been that role that led to a cross-burning at Dr. Singleton’s house on April 16, 1930. That evening, two men placed an iron cross covered with oil-soaked burlap on the lawn of Singleton’s house at North 30th and Binney Streets. The burning cross scared Singleton’s wife and niece awake, but Dr. Singleton was out of town. His father, longtime North Omaha leader Millard F. Singleton (1859–1939), arrived shortly after and tore down the cross in front of a large crowd.

In his role as a community leader, Dr. Singleton protested the racist closure of a swimming pool in Omaha by the City government. Black youth started going to the City of Omaha’s McKinley Park swimming pool in 1930 after de facto segregation had kept them away for the previous decade. When white crowds became increasingly confrontational, the City drained the pool. Singleton protested, and the City of Omaha’s response was to refill the pool. However, that lasted less than a decade and the pool was infilled again. Today it is still gone.

In 1933, Dr. John A. Singleton, DDS moved to New York City. He served on the National NAACP Board of Directors starting in 1945.

He died in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, on August 1, 1970.

Today, hDr. Singleton’s home still stands at 2895 Binney Street, complete with the separate entrance used for his dental practice. The lawn is where the KKK lit its cross in 1933.

There is no recognition for the leadership provided by Dr. Singleton during his life. The contributions he made are marked by no monument, statue or commemorative honor; no streets, buildings, schools or other places have been named for him. Perhaps time will make that right.

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