Constantly faced with white supremacy, African American professionals in Omaha faced near-constant racist discrimination. Despite it all, one dentist kept a 50+ year practice in North Omaha. This is a biography of Dr. W.W. Peebles.
Dr. William Warrington Peebles, DDS (1883-1958) was born in Washington, DC. An early African American graduate of Massachusetts Agricultural College in 1903, Peebles graduated from the Chicago College of Dental Surgery, the Loyola University Dental Department, in 1906 and moved to Omaha, where he set up his dentistry practice at 220 South 13th Street, near 13th and Douglas Street.
In 1917, Dr. Peebles entered World War I. He specifically requested to work with African American soldiers, and was assigned as the lead dental officer of the U.S. Army’s 92nd Infantry Division, which was a segregated unit. As part of the Dental Reserve Corps, Dr. Peebles was the dental surgeon for the 349th Field Artillery Regiment of the 92nd. In 1918, white supremacy stole his position away when Captain Peebles position as the division dental surgeon was taken from him and given to First Lieutenant Jacob L. Brause, a white regular army dental officer, despite being a lower rank.
After the war in 1920, Dr. Peebles joined Dr. Amos B. Madison, Dr. Craig Morris, and other former service members in organizing the first African American post of the American Legion in Omaha. Originally meeting at 24th and Hamilton Street, they formed as the Douglas County Post and then officially became the American Legion Theodore Roosevelt Post #30. Others leading the formation of the post included Dr. Peebles and Harrison Pinkett. Dr. Peebles led the movement towards the post acquiring its one building in the 1930s. It was one of the first Black American Legion posts to own their own building.
In 1945, he was on the founding Board of Trustees for the Provident Hospital. Established because African Americans were routinely turned away from other hospitals because of their race, the idea Provident was abandoned.
Dr. Peebles died in 1948 and was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery.
You Might Like…
- History of North Omaha’s American Legion Post #30
- Community Leaders in North Omaha History
- Timeline of Race and Racism in Omaha
- History of the 24th and Lake Historic District
- “Peebles, William W. (1903)” from YouMass, Special Collections and University Archives, UMass Amherst Libraries
- “African American Dental Surgeons and the US Army Dental Corps: A struggle for acceptance, 1901-1919” by John M. Hyson, Jr. DDS for the US Army Medical Department Office of Medical History