DATE OF EVENT: 1898
DATE PUBLISHED: Tuesday, Nov. 29, 1932, in The Kansas City Star
Editor’s note: In 1898, physician Thomas Unthank came to Kansas City and established Douglass Hospital in Kansas City, Kan., the first such institution west of the Mississippi to serve the African-American community. Unthank would establish another black hospital in Kansas City and serve as superintendent at General Hospital No. 2, the segregated facility for Kansas City’s black population.
It was a remarkable career.
Unlike other notable citizens who played similar roles, Unthank lacked civic standing, wealth and, initially, government assistance. He demonstrated how hard work and commitment could make a difference.
But Unthank’s contributions were not reported in The Kansas City Star until his death. In the early days of the 20th century, the newspaper paid little attention to the people or concerns of the African-American community.
Dr. Thomas Conrad Unthank, 66-year-old Negro physician and surgeon here since 1898, and known as the “father of Kansas City’s Negro hospitals,” died last night at his home, 1018 Woodland avenue. He had been ill several months.
Dr. Unthank twice was superintendent of the old General hospital, now replaced by General hospital No. 2, and was responsible largely for the establishment of the Jackson County Home for Aged Negroes. He was born at Greensboro, N. C., March 15, 1866, the son of slave parents. He organized the first Negro hospital west of the Mississippi River, which was the Douglass hospital in Kansas City, Kansas. Later, he established the Lange hospital, 4227 Michigan avenue. He was the first Negro to be a city physician.
Dr. Unthank attended schools in North Carolina until he was 18 years old. In 1885 he taught school there to obtain funds to attend the Howard university school of medicine at Washington.
Besides his widow, Dr. Unthank leaves a daughter, Mrs. Louise Montgomery, also of the home, and two sons, Dr. DeNorval Unthank, Portland, Ore., and Edgar Unthank, Fort Wayne, Ind. …