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McClennan, Alonzo Clifton | Amistad Research Center

Name: McClennan, Alonzo Clifton

Historical Note:

Alonzo Clifton McClennan (1855-1912) was an African American physician and community leader in Charleston, South Carolina. He established a nurse training school and hospital in Charleston, as well as the first African American medical organization in South Carolina.

Alonzo Clifton McClennan was born in Columbia, South Carolina, on May 1, 1855. He was the son of Harriet (Kennedy) McClennan and was orphaned as a child. He lived with his uncle and guardian, Edward B. Thompson, a prosperous barber in the city. In 1872, he became a page in the South Carolina state senate, where he gained the noticed of legislator Richard H. Cain. Upon Cain's election to the U.S. Congress, McClennan passed his examination to the U.S. Naval Academy and became the second African American to enter the academy. Although light-skinned, McClennan met bigotry within the academy and eventually withdrew after a few months. He studied briefly at Wilbraham Wesleyan Academy in Massachusetts before returning to Columbia in 1875 to enroll in the newly integrated South Carolina College. However, within a year the school resegregated, forcing McClennan to leave.

He received a scholarship to the Howard University Medical School. He completed the surgery program with distinction and acquired a degree in pharmacy. Afterwards, McClennan established a practice in Columbia before moving to Augusta, Georgia. There he met Ida Veronica Ridley; the couple had two daughters, Maude (d. 1976) and Harriet (b. 1890), and a son, Ridley Ulysses (1887-1921). In 1884, the McClennan family moved to Charleston, South Carolina. There, McClennan established South Carolina's first African American nurse training school in 1896 and the Cannon Street Hospital the following year, which served the city's African American population. In 1897, he assisted with the establishment of the Palmetto Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical Association, which was South Carolina's first organization for Black medical professionals. In 1899, McClennan founded the monthly newsletter Hospital Herald.

Alonzo McClennan died on October 4, 1912, in Charleston.


Gates, Henry Louis Jr and Evelyn Brooks-Higginbothom. African American National Biography, Vol. 5 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), pp. 475-476.

Gatewood, Willard B. Jr. "Alonzo Clifton McClennan: Black Midshipman from South Carolina, 1873-1874." The South Carolina Historical Magazine, Vol. 89, no. 1 (January 1988).

"Dr. Alonzo Clifton McClennan" http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/r/o/h/William-F-Rohlfing/WEBSITE-0001/UHP-0099.html (Accessed 9/15/2011).

Note Author: Christopher Harter

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