Dr. Douglas L. ConnerOctober 1920 - November 1998
Douglas Conner was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, the son of Jerry Conner a lumberyard laborer, and Mary Elenora Washington Conner, a telephone company custodian. He attended all-black Eureka High School and won a scholarship to Alcorn A & M College, today’s Alcorn State University.
He graduated from Alcorn College in 1943 and began working in an automobile factory in Detroit for a year to raise money to fund his dream of becoming a physician. He was drafted into the army in the spring of 1944 and after training at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington D.C., participated as a medic in World War II, where a white army doctor, who worked with him in Okinawa, encouraged him to go to medical school. In 1945, he married Juanita Macon, a fellow Alcornite, eventually to father two daughters, one later becoming a doctor and the other a nurse.
After he was mustered out of the Army in 1946, he and Juanita moved to Chicago where he worked in the steel mills that summer to raise money that he could attend medical school. That September he entered Howard University Medical School in Washington, D.C. and remained there from 1946-1950. Following his time at Howard University, he did his internship in an all-black hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, and set up his practice in Starkville, MS in July of 1951. He practiced medicine all of his life in Starkville and became the community’s pre-eminent civil rights leader. Conner instituted the NAACP in Starkville, led the economic boycott of the business district and organized marches to force the hiring of black clerks. He was arrested for his efforts more than once. He also integrated the public schools through federal court action, all the while maintaining a busy medical practice. He was a leader in the local Democratic Party and ran for office unsuccessfully several times. Dr. Conner visited the White House at the invitations of Presidents Nixon and Carter. His foster son, Richard Holmes, integrated Mississippi State University and later worked as a
Dr. Conner was Starkville’s Martin Luther King, Jr. He never lost his determination to make the community a better place for all peoples. As he phrased it: “What the world needs is more blacks and whites working together for our common good.”
Douglas L. Conner, with John F. Marszalek, A Black Physician’s Story, Bringing Hope in Mississippi. Jackson: University press of Mississippi, 1985.