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Detroit Dog Rescue Celebrates Black History Month

Dr William Waddell African American Veterinarian
Dave Rudolph

February is Black History month – a time we all should respect and take note of the extraordinary contributions African-Americans have made in our country, in most cases under extreme circumstances during racial prejudice and intolerance.

The world of veterinarian medicine has its share of prominent African-Americans who broke barriers, forged new paths and rose above difficult circumstance to improve the field of veterinarian medicine and education.

Frederick Douglass Patterson (1901-1988) was one of the most influential Black veterinarians in U.S. history. Born in Washington D.C., Patterson was orphaned before he was two years of age. Raised by an older sister who encouraged him to get an education, Patterson received his veterinary degree from Iowa State University (1923) and PhD from Cornell (1932). After becoming president of Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in 1935, he overcame tremendous obstacles to establish a veterinary college for Black students - there were only about 12†veterinary colleges in the entire country during a time when higher education in the South was highly discouraged and segregated.

And by the way, most Americans will recognize Dr. Patterson for his contributions as the founder of the United Negro College Fund incorporated in 1944.

In 1987 President Reagan awarded Dr. Patterson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the nation’s highest civilian award. So when you hear the tagline “A mind is a terrible thing to waste,” remember a noted Black veterinarian had a hand in it.

"For five decades, as president and president emeritus of Tuskegee Institute, Dr. Frederick D. Patterson has been one of America's outstanding educators. He is also the founder of the United Negro College Fund and the College Endowment Funding Plan, and through these, he has helped finance excellence throughout America's community of historically black colleges. By his inspiring example of personal excellence and unselfish dedication, he has taught the Nation that, in this land of freedom, no mind should be allowed to go to waste,” President Ronald Reagan.

It should be noted that before the veterinary program was established at Tuskegee Institute it was next to impossible for African-Americans to becoming a veterinarian. However, there were a few college and universities that should be given credit for their work in recruiting blacks into their vet programs in the early 1900 -1935 such as Kansas State, Iowa State, University of Pennsylvania and our own Michigan State University.

Dr. William Waddell (1908-2008) considered a pioneer in the field of veterinarian medicine was once the last living Buffalo Soldier – well documented and decorated all-black regiment in the U.S. Army.

William Waddell was born in 1908 in Richmond, Virginia, where his father worked as a horse driver and his mother a cook. His childhood experiences taking care of horses along with his dad pushed him to excel in school and later becoming a veterinarian.

Earning a degree from Lincoln University, Waddell continued his education where he attended the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. He completed his doctorate degree in 1935 and went on to becoming one of the first black veterinaries to practices in the United States.

Dr. Waddell was the first African-American to practice veterinary medicine in the State of West Virginia and the first Black to become a member of the American Veterinary Medicine Association.

Waddell also served honorably in the military and served as the first African American commissioned member of the Officer Reserve Veterinary Corp. He joined the R.O.T.C. while studying at the University of Pennsylvania, and after graduation was assigned to the 9th Cavalry, stationed at Fort Clark in Bracketville, Texas, where he cared for the fort’s over 8,000 horses. During World War II Waddell served as a veterinary officer in the Army’s 9th Cavalry, 5th Brigade in North Africa and Italy.
After leaving the Army, Waddell joined the faculty at the Tuskegee Institute, where he met his future wife. While at Tuskegee, Waddell worked with famed scientist, George Washington Carver and co-founded the Institute’s School for Veterinary Medicine.
At Detroit Dog Rescue, we salute and pay tribute to Dr. Frederick Douglass Paterson and Dr. William Waddell for their groundbreaking work, accomplishments and standards of excellence to the field of veterinary medicine and education.

Detroit Dog Rescue is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization found in 2011 whose mission is to establish a no-kill rescue center in Detroit; bring awareness to the stray and homeless dog problem within the city, educate pet owners on the responsibilities of pet ownership and advocate for the adoption of rescue dogs. For more information on Detroit Dog Rescue or to make a donation visit online at, Facebook@DetroitDogRescue or Twitter@313Dogs.

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