The Mississippi Dental Society was incorporated in the state of Mississippi on April 1, 1920. The charter members consist of a group of African American dentist that was geographically diverse. The founding members were not located in the same town, county or region of the state. Imagine the logistics of incorporating an organization was not impossible but required some perseverance. The charter members were:
Dr. J.C. Overton- Grenville, MS
Dr. C.L. Barnes-Jackson, MS
Dr. J.T. Full love-Clarksdale, MS
Dr. W.S. Atwood-Vicksburg. MS
Dr. W.H. Black-Meridian, MS
Dr. D.H. Dilworth-Yazoo, MS
Recounting the history of the organization, the American Dental Association was first established and called the National Dental Association (NDA) in 1917. At this time the organization was Caucasian. The name of this organization was changed to the American Dental Association (ADA). The present NDA was started as the Interstate Dental Association in 1922 and was predominately African American. The name was changed to the National Dental Association in 1932 and became an African American organization.
Dentistry for African Americans started much further back in history. As early as 1869, when Robert Turner Freeman, an African-American man, was one of six people with a doctorate from a U.S. university (Harvard University). As previously stated, the American Dental Association, which was Caucasian was established in 1917. The organization dates back much further. The Mississippi Dental Society is a component of the National Dental Association.
Prior to 1880, there were less than 12 African American dentists and mechanics were trained to take out teeth. In 1890, Ida Gray, a graduate of the University of Michigan, became the first female dentist. In 1895, The National Negro Medical Association of Physicians, Dentist and Pharmaceuticals formed. This organization later became known as the National Medical Association
During the period 1901-1905, many attempts were made to organize an Association of African American dentist that failed on several attempts. In 1907 the National Medical Association established a Dental section as part of the National Medical Association. It is worth mentioning that at that time most dentists had dual degrees (M.D., D.D.S.). In 1908 the first journal of the National Medical Association was published.
In November, 1910, in the District of Columbia (DC), The Washington Society of Colored Dentists became the first organization of African-American Dentist. In 1915, The Mississippi Medical, Dental and Pharmaceutical Association were formed. This is not the same organization that was formed in the mid 1980’s.
The present day organization was organized and established as Mississippi Dental Society in 1920. Imagine the climate in a 1920’s Mississippi. The courage and valor of a small group of people with incite to establish an organization not only for themselves but for the people of their community, for they knew that that standing together is superior to standing alone.
The founding members Dr. J.C. Overton- Grenville, MS, Dr. C.L. Barnes-Jackson, MS, Dr. J.T. Fullilove-Clarksdale, MS., Dr. W.S. Atwood-Vicksburg-MS., Dr. W.H. Black-Meridan, MS. And Dr. D.H. Dilworth-Yazoo, MS. had the courage and conviction to do just that.
These individuals understood their strength was in numbers. Understanding they were much more together than apart and they were in part if not the totality of their community. They understood that they if not alone, but with other professionals could lead their community. These were not selfish acts, but acts of commitment to their community. These individuals were people you knew and saw daily. They were visible and part of your community. Since that time in 1920, the members of the Mississippi Dental Society have been not only the people that treated the needs of the community with dental care, but the people that have been your leaders in your community and the people you call upon in your hour of need not only for dentistry, but for the community.
The Objective of the Mississippi Dental Society is to promote the art and science of dentistry; raise the standard of the dental profession, stimulate favorable relations and good fellowship among dentist and other health professionals work for the health of the community we serve; and work persistently for elimination of religious and racial discrimination, and segregation from dental institutions, clinics and organizations.
Bridging the Past with the Future
The history of the organization is loosely recorded during the period after founding in April, 1920. The history is recorded through the practice and community endeavors of the dentist around the state. Our history records that one of the founders, Dr. C.L. Barnes, a native of D’ Lo, Mississippi and a graduate of Alcorn College(Later becoming Alcorn State University) and after further study at Northwestern, returned to Jackson Mississippi and practiced on historic Farish Street for 23 years. Little information can be found in archives on the other founders. Through newspapers, books, gazette, journals and other periodicals, it is noted that our Mississippi Dental Society members continued to be have successful practices and became pillars of the community.
Noteworthy are many African Americans chronicled during this time period. Worthy of mention are a number of people:
Dr. Emmett J. Stringer, A prominent citizen, opened his dental office in Columbus, Mississippi in 1950.
Dr. Stringer helped organize the NAACP chapter in Columbus, Mississippi. A Dentist, Civil Rights Leader and Pastor, Dr. Stringer practiced in Columbus, Mississippi until 1992. Dr. Stringer was a leading figure in the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement and served as president of the Mississippi State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) branches from 1953-1954 and had the job of organizing responses to Brown vs Board of Education. He also organized the Columbus branch of the NAACP and the Lownde’s County Women Voters League. Dr. Stringer served as the first chairman of the Biracial Advisory Committee to the Columbus Municipal Board as well as President of the North Mississippi Medical, Dental, Pharmaceutical and Nurses Society.
Dr. Aaron Thomas Sr., a dentist in Tupelo, Mississippi was one of the first African Americans to apply for membership and be accepted as a member of the to Mississippi Dental Association(MDA) which at the time was a Caucasian organization in 1969. Dr. Thomas was a 1949 graduate of Meharry Medical College. Dr. Thomas served the Tupelo area for over 30 years.
During this same period in 1969, two other African American dentists, applied and successfully became members of the Mississippi Dental Associaton. Dr. Leon T. Britton and Dr. Robert Harrison. Dr. Britton, a 1951 graduate of Meharry Medical College and Dr. Robert Harrison, a 1941 graduate of Northwestern University were accepted as members in the Mississippi Dental Association. Dr. Britton served the Greenville, Mississippi area for many years and is honored by our annual award-The Britton Award. Dr. Harrison served Yazoo City and the surrounding area for many years.
On the eastern side of the state, African American dentist were establishing themselves as leaders both in dentistry and the community. Dr. Hobart Kornegay was a native of Meridian, Mississippi and a graduate of Morehouse College and a 1948 graduate of Meharry Medical College. He was not only practicing dentistry, but involved with civil rights and public service. Dr. Kornegay served on both the Meridian City Council and the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors. Another prominent dentist in the area was Dr. Eugene Hunter who established himself not only as a practitioner, but a businessman as well.
In the central region of the state, African-American dentist were establishing themselves as practitioners and making notable contributions to the community. One notable individual during this era was Dr. A.H. McCoy who attended Tougaloo College and Meharry Medical College in Nashville. In 1930, Dr. McCoy returned to Jackson and started a dental practice. It was located near the corner of Farish and Capitol Street, on part of the present day site of the McCoy Federal Building. In addition to his successful dental practice, McCoy co-founded The Security Life Insurance Company in 1938, two movie theaters, and helped develop the Farish Street business district. McCoy was also active in the Mississippi chapter of the NAACP.
Dr. C.B. Clark-Became the first african-american member of the State Board of Dental Examiners in 1982.
Dr.Thurmond Beasley-Dentist-Anesthesiologist-held dual degrees in dentistry and anesthesiology. Mississippi Board of Dental Examiners from 2002-2008 and played a significant part in drafting the current rules and regulations regarding the use of sedation dentistry for the state of Mississippi
During and following the preceding period, the Mississippi Dental Society continued to forge and make history. The organization continued to meet at least annually. During this period, the organization experienced phenomenal growth with an influx of minority dentist into the state. Though many of these dentist are no longer with us, the names are worthy of mention. These members are: Dr. Presley Autry, Dr. C.B. Clark Sr. Dr. C.B Clark Jr., Dr. Warren Inge, Dr. Donald Woods, Dr. Thurmond Beasley, Dr. Eugene Hunter, Dr. Hobart Kornegay, Dr. Cottrell Mitchell, Dr. Theodore Jones, and Dr. Mavis Jones, Dr. John Davis, Dr. W.F. O’Reilly, Dr. O’Lee Doss, Dr. Charles Leonard and Dr. Irvin Henderson.
Some were graduates of the UMC School of Dentistry and others were graduates of Dental schools in the U.S. with Mississippi ties. Others simply chose to make Mississippi their home. It is noteworthy to mention doing this period the first African Americans graduated from the UMC School of Dentistry. There were a number of first for the organization during this era: Dr. Theodore Jones-First African American Orthodontist, Dr. Mavis Jones-First Female Dentist and Dr. Willie Hill-First African American Oral Surgeon
The organization continued to meet at least annually. A first for the Mississippi was the start of the annual meeting of prominent organizations of color in the state. In the early 1980’s, multiple health and law professionals organized and established the Mississippi Black Professional Association organization with the concept of “Networking of Black professionals”. This organization included the Mississippi Dental Society (dentist), the Magnolia Bar Association (lawyers), Mississippi Pharmaceutical Society (pharmacist), Mississippi Medical and Surgical Association (physicians) and Eliza Pillars Nursing Association (nurses). This group met with representation of all organizations considered the “Core Committee”. These organization though not legally connected were committed to the concept of “Networking of Black Professionals”. This proved to be a viable concept which has lasted over 30 years. This organization was formed with the concept that we were more powerful as a unit than individuals. The Mississippi Black Professionals were formed under the premise to collectively serve the black population of Mississippi. Though the Mississippi Dental Society worked with other organizations, The MDS (Mississippi Dental Society) has maintained its autonomy during this period. During this period our organization would continue to meet on a bi-annual basis with a commitment to meet over the state of Mississippi. We were committed to meeting in all region of the state with local dentist hosting the event. We were not only supported by the local dentists hosting the event and other professionals, but the entire city including all dignitaries, ensuring the entire city would roll out the “Red Carpet” for the organization. It was always a special event. These events allowed us to not only connect as collogues. We bonded as professionals, friends and family.
Though formed, Mississippi Dental Society (MDS) organization existed without representation on the state board governing the practice of dentistry. In July, 1982, the governing body of the Mississippi Dental Society petitioned the state to appoint one member to the Mississippi Board of Dental Examiners. This At Lodge member was to be of African-American descent. MDS President Roy Irons and Rep. Isiah Fredrick, along with others members of the Mississippi Dental Society meet with Gov. William Winters and agreed that the At-Lodge-Member would be reserved for MDS member. Since that time the board members have been:
1982-1986 Clarence Clark Sir D.D.S.
1986-1990 Cottrell Mitchell D.D.S.
1990-1998-Theodore Jones D.D.S.
1998-2002-Charles Leonard D.D.S.
2002-2008 Thurmond Beasley D.D.S.
2008-2014 Carl H. Boykin D.D.S.
2014-2020 Roy Irons D.D.S
When the Mississippi Dental Society name is mentioned you could possibly think of the Mississippi Dental Society as “The Little Engine That could-and did”. Since that faithful day-April 1, 1920 starting with 6 members, the progress and growth has been slow but consistent to the present day. We now operate in a permanent location with an Executive Director (Ms. Denita Wells). We are well represented by and in all area of the state of Mississippi. Because of perseverance, determination and faith, our membership has grown consistently. The membership consists of Dentist in most specialties, male-female, and membership in adjoining states. Our membership consist of 85 in many counties throughout the state. Our membership is represented in all aspect of dental including “Private Practice”, “Corporate Dentistry Healthcare CEO’s”, “Hospital Specialty Clinics” and “State and Federal Healthcare Clinics”, “State Board of Health” and “Teaching Institutions”. Chances are you are treated by our members. We are and continue to be a factor in the economy of Mississippi.