Claude E. Driskell Papers

Dates: 1900-2002
Size: 4 linear feet (4 archival boxes, including one oversize case)
Repository: Chicago Public Library, Woodson Regional Library, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature, 9525 S. Halsted Street, Chicago, Illinois 60628
Collection Number: 1995/09
Provenance: Donation of Claude Evans Driskell, D.D.S., 1995. Additional materials were added by Dr. Driskell in 1998, 1999 and 2002.
Access: No restrictions
Citation: When quoting material from this collection the preferred citation is: Claude Evans Driskell Papers [Box #, Folder #], Chicago Public Library, Woodson Regional Library, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature
Processed by: Michael Flug, Senior Archivist, Harsh Archival Processing Project

Biographical Note

Claude Evans Driskell, prominent Chicago dentist, dental educator and historian of African American dentistry, was born on January 13, 1926 in Chicago. He grew up at several locations in the Bronzeville and Englewood neighborhoods, moving to 2922 S. Prairie at the age of 12. His parents were James Driskell, born in Georgia, and Elizabeth Driskell, born in Alabama. He entered the U.S. Army during World War II and was decorated for his service. Returning to civilian life, he started college under the G.I. bill and earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Roosevelt University in 1950. Driskell enrolled in the College of Dentistry at University of Illinois at Chicago, earning a D.D.S. degree in 1954. He went on to practice dentistry for 55 years, first in Harvey, Illinois, and then on Chicago’s South Side. He was still working several days a week at his office on Halsted Street until shortly before his death in 2009.

In 1975, he became the dental consultant for the Chicago Board of Education, where he played a major role in the successful fight to gain dental insurance for Chicago Public School teachers. Driskell later became an adjunct professor for pre-dental students at Chicago State University. He also remained active as an alumnus of the University of Illinois Dental School, serving on the Dean’s Committee for more than a decade.

Early in his career he took an active interest in the history of African Americans in the dental profession. After graduation, he joined the Lincoln Dental Society, the organization which represented Chicago’s African American dentists, and the National Dental Society, which represented African American dentists throughout the country. Driskell served a term as the Lincoln Dental Society’s president. He was a prolific dental journalist, writing for the professional journals of both the Lincoln Dental Society and the National Dental Society. From 1966 to 1980 he was the editor of the Bulletin of the Lincoln Dental Society; he worked as Director of Publicity for the National Dental Association, and as Assistant Editor of the NDA Journal.

He was perhaps best known as the author of The History of Chicago Black Dental Professionals, 1850-1983. That book served as an essential part in the Chicago Public Library’s influential 2002 exhibit, “More Than a Century of Struggle: African American Achievement in Chicago’s Medical History.” Driskell also authored four chapters in Essays on Earl Renfroe—A Man of Firsts, published in 2001. Renfroe was a renowned orthodontist who was the first African American department head at the UIC College of Dentistry.

In 1953 Claude Driskell married Naomi Roberts, daughter of Bishop William Roberts, founder of the Church of God in Christ in Illinois. They lived in Chicago’s Jackson Park Highlands neighborhood and raised five children.

Claude Driskell, a man of huge energy, not only found time for family, dentistry and dental history, but became the archivist and historian for the Original Forty Club, one of the oldest and most prominent African American professional organizations. Founded in 1920, the club’s membership roster became a veritable “who’s who” in Chicago. For its 75th anniversary, Driskell authored and published a limited edition history of the club, which included extensive biographical information on the club’s many men of achievement.

Claude Evans Driskell died May 23, 2009. He is buried in Chicago’s Oakwood Cemetery.

Sources:

Scope and Content Note

The Claude E. Driskell Papers document his work as an historian of African American dentistry, as a dental journalist, and as archivist, historian and author for the Original Forty Club. This collection is arranged into three series: African Americans in Dentistry, The Original Forty Club, and Photographs.

Related papers at the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection include the Leonidas Berry Papers, Ulysses Grant Dailey Papers, T.R.M. Howard Papers, James Richardson Papers, Dempsey Travis Papers, and the National Black Nurses Association (Chicago Chapter) Archives.

Series 1: African Americans in Dentistry

This series contains publications and organizational documents from the National Dental Association and the Lincoln Dental Society, as well as articles on dental history clipped from serials. Of particular note are copies of two works written in whole or part by Driskell-- The History of Chicago Black Dental Professionals, 1850-1983, and Essays on Earl Renfroe—A Man of Firsts (for which Driskell authored four chapters). Materials in this series are arranged chronologically.

Series 2: The Original Forty Club of Chicago

The two items in this series are The 75th anniversary edition of The Original Forty Club of Chicago, written by Driskell, and a Chicago Tribune article on The Original Forty Club, written by Danielle Svetcov.

Series 3: Photographs

This series mainly consists of a small collection of photographs on Chicago African American dental history. One of the early photographs is an extremely rare group photo of Chcago’s African American dentists in the first decade of the 20th century. Also of note is the only known copy of a 1925 group photo of the members of the Original Forty Club.

Container List

Box 1 Folder 1 AA Dental History, Program, 22nd annual meeting, National Dental Association, Louisville, Kentucky, 1935 August
Box 1 Folder 2 AA Dental History, Installation Banquet, Lincoln Dental Society, 1964 October 2
Box 1 Folder 3 AA Dental History, Bulletin of the Lincoln Dental Society, 1968 January-February
Box 1 Folder 4 AA Dental History, Bulletin of the Lincoln Dental Society, 1968 March, April, May
Box 1 Folder 5 AA Dental History, Bulletin of the Lincoln Dental Society, 1968 September-October
Box 1 Folder 6 AA Dental History, Bulletin of the Lincoln Dental Society, 1968 November-December
Box 1 Folder 7 AA Dental History, Bulletin of the Lincoln Dental Society, 1969 January-February
Box 1 Folder 8 AA Dental History, Bulletin of the Lincoln Dental Society, 1969 March-April
Box 1 Folder 9 AA Dental History, Bulletin of the Lincoln Dental Society, 1969 May-June
Box 1 Folder 10 AA Dental History, Bulletin of the Lincoln Dental Society, 1969 September-October-November
Box 1 Folder 11 AA Dental History, Bulletin of the Lincoln Dental Society, 1969 December – 1970 March
Box 1 Folder 12 AA Dental History, Bulletin of the Lincoln Dental Society, 1971 October
Box 1 Folder 13 AA Dental History, Bulletin of the Lincoln Dental Society, 1972 January
Box 1 Folder 14 AA Dental History, Bulletin of the Lincoln Dental Society, 1972 Spring
Box 1 Folder 15 AA Dental History, Bulletin of the Lincoln Dental Society, 1972 Summer
Box 1 Folder 16 AA Dental History, Bulletin of the Lincoln Dental Society, 1972 Fall
Box 1 Folder 17 AA Dental History, Bulletin of the Lincoln Dental Society, 1974 Spring
Box 1 Folder 18 AA Dental History, Bulletin of the Lincoln Dental Society, 1975 Fall (Convention Issue)
Box 1 Folder 19 AA Dental History, Bulletin of the Lincoln Dental Society, Bi-Centennial Convention Issue, 1976
Box 1 Folder 20 AA Dental History, Claude Driskell, The History of Chicago Black Dental Professionals, 1850-1983, 1982
Box 1 Folder 21 AA Dental History, “Blacks in the Health Professions,” Dollars & Sense, 1984 February-March
Box 1 Folder 22 AA Dental History, Clifton Dummett, “Charles E. Bentley: Prevention Began Early,” Journal of the National Medical Association, 1983
Box 1 Folder 23 AA Dental History, Clifton Dummett, “A Portrait of Integrity: Arnold B. Donawa, DDS,” CDS Review, 1997 December
Box 1 Folder 24 AA Dental History, Article by Claude Driskell in Alumni Report, UIC College of Dentistry, 1999 Fall/2000 Winter
Box 1 Folder 25 AA Dental History, William S. Bike, ed., Essays on Earl Renfroe—A Man of Firsts, UIC College of Dentistry, 2001 (includes four chapters by Driskell)

Series 2:The Original Forty Club of Chicago

Box 2 Folder 1 Claude E. Driskell, Editor, The Original Forty Club of Chicago: 75th Anniversary Edition, 1920 to 1995, Original Forty Club of Chicago, 1995
Box 2 Folder 2 Danielle Svetcov, “The Top Forty” (on The Original Forty Club of Chicago), Chicago Tribune Magazine, 2002 January 27

Series 3: Photographs

Box 3 Photo 001 Ida Gray Nelson, D.D.S., circa 1900
Box 3 002 Chicago African American dentists, 1906
Box 3 003 Diploma, Joseph H. Plummer, D.D.S., 1906
Box 3 004 Charles Edwin Bentley, D.D.S., circa 1910
Box 3 005 Group photograph of “The Original Forty Club of Chicago,” 1925
Box 3 006 Cover, First issue, Bulletin of the Lincoln Dental Society, 1930
Box 3 007 Group photograph, members of the Lincoln Dental Society, 1980
Box 3 008 Claude Driskell and Arthur Ashe, circa 1978
Box 3 009 Arthur Ashe, circa 1978
Box 4 Photo 002 Chicago African American dentists, 1906
Box 4 003 Diploma, Joseph H. Plummer, D.D.S., 1906
Box 4 005 Group photograph of “The Original Forty Club of Chicago,” 1925
Box 4 007 Group photograph, members of the Lincoln Dental Society, 1980
Box 4 008 Claude Driskell and Arthur Ashe, circa 1978
Box 4 009 Arthur Ashe, circa 1978
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