— By Dino Robinson

Thomas Madison Doram, M.D.V. (1871-1941)
Thomas Madison Doram, M.D.V. (1871-1941)

Nearing the turn of the century, a 1900 era America was less than 40 years after the emancipation of slaves, reconstruction was enabling opportunities. T.M. Doram, away from his hometown, he traveled to Chicago to study. Doram graduated and made history becoming the first degreed “negro” Veterinarian for his home state of Kentucky, and second in the United States. However, Doram opened his first office in Downtown Evanston, Illinois. I asked, “Why Evanston?” and “Why did he leave?”. The answers were easy, but also led to another discovery of a family connection.

Doram became the second “Negro” person with a degree in Veterinary Medicine

Born in 1871 to Susan C. and Thomas Doram, Thomas M. Doram life on the family farm, influenced his later career choice. In his early years, he worked with his father in carpentry and is recorded helping to rebuild the university he attended in 1892, Eckstein Norton University, after a fire gutted the building.[1] However, in 1896, he had made his career choice and with that, relocated to Chicago.

Doram entered the McKillip Veterinary College in 1896 just four years after the college opened its doors. There, he advanced quickly to the head of his class and even made senior assistant instructor in Pharmacology:

“As a matter of course the rest of the students were white, but to show what one can do with an opportunity, at the close of the first year, Doram led his class in Materia Medica; the second year he was at the head of his class in Pharmacy, and during his last or senior year he was appointed senior assistant instructor in Pharmacology of his class, an honor of which he may be justly proud.”[2]

Doram graduated from McKillip Veterinary College March 30, 1899 with the degree Doctor of Veterinary Medicine[3] becoming the second “Negro” person with a degree in Veterinary Medicine. The first was Agustus Nathaniel Lushington in 1897 from the University of Pennsylvania. With degree in hand, Doram then moved to Evanston, Illinois.

Why Evanston. . ? That is the one question asked the most when I give talks on North Shore Black History, and I often say “the same as anyone else — plenty of jobs, good housing, good schools, great neighborhood and of course, someone they know.” In the case of Doram, his sister (Alphia T. Richardson) and brother-in-law (Dewitt W. Richardson) who were already living in Evanston.

Doramad
Display ad from the Evanston Directory, 1901

Display ad from the Evanston Directory, 1901

Doram shared a home there and opened his business as listed in the 1901 Evanston Directory: T. M. Doram, M. D. V., Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Special attention Given to Veterinary Surgery and Dentistry, also Canine Practice. Within two years, Doram relocated his business back at his hometown in Kentucky where it grew and gained notoriety, married and had eight children. In both Evanston and Kentucky, horse care became his main focus. Doram was noted in a legal case involving care of horses in transport via train:

“The mules when received by the consignees, Bright & Fox, about 11 o’clock a. m., May 18th, were in an exceedingly weak and bad condition. Dr. T. M. Doram, a veterinary surgeon, was called to examine them, and found their stomachs and intestines entirely empty-no evidence of food of any kind-and gave it as his opinion that they were starved to death.”[3]

Doram’s relocation to Kentucky could have been triggered to a better market in care of horses where Evanston was moving toward automobiles.

While looking into the life of Thomas M. Doram, and interest into his wife’s side of the family led to a discovery of a national connection. Doram married Bertha James Hancock October 21, 1901. Bertha’s family was originally from Texas and was one of four girls of Hugh and Susie Hancock. In the 1900 Evanston census, the family lived a t 818 Davis Street. Bertha’s father Hugh Hancock was a saloonkeeper while Bertha the oldest daughter, was listed as a seamstress. What is interesting is that Bertha’s younger sister, Nettie Blair Hancock, married Booker T. Washington Jr. (1913). Yes, son of the [emphasis mine] Booker T. Washington, founder of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute. But that is another article.

Dr. T.M. Doram was the nations second degreed veterinarian who chose to open his office first in Evanston, Illinois in the heart of Downtown Evanston at the turn of the century. Progress, indeed made.

Sources:

1. Richings, G. F., Evidences Of Progress 
Among 
Colored People, Twelfth Edition; pgs. 538-539, Philadelphia: Geo. S. Ferguson Co., 1902.

2. Richardson, Clement, Editor-in-Chief; The National Encyclopedia of the Colored Race: Volume One; page 162, National Publishing Company, Inc., Montgomery, Alabama © 1919

3. CINCINNATI, N. 0. & T. P. R. R. fl. GREGG. (Court of Appeals of Kentucky, May 4, 1901.) [80 S. W. Rep. 512.] Carriage of Live Stock-Failure to Feed and Water-Application of Federal Statute-Possession of Connecting Carrier. Under U. S. Comp. St. 1901, p. 2995

Also: 1899, 1901, 1902 Evanston Directories; Huidekopper, Rush Shippen; The Journal of Comparative Medicine and Veterinary Archives, Volume 20, 1899, page 306; Microfilm rolls #994027-994058. Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, Frankfort, Kentucky. Photo of T.M. Doram. Richings, G. F., Evidences Of Progress 
Among 
Colored People, Twelfth Edition; p 538.

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8 thoughts on “Thomas Madison Doram: A Veterinarian on the North Shore

  1. Tessa Doram Hill-Aston- great history dr. Doram is my grandfather, He was the father of eleven
    Tessa Doram Hill-Aston – jan 20 , 2014
    I very proud that dr. Doram is my grandfather, he had 11 children and my father Roy doram was the 11th and last child. my father had two children roy jr and me (tessa) . above terry is my neice, Roy jr daughter

  2. It’s a privilege to carry the last name Doram. Thomas was my great grandfather and I’m proud to carry his name. My brother Tai Doram is also a doctor and my oldest daughter Tynee Effiom is in her fifth year in school in Texas in hopes of becoming a doctor as well.. Thanks to my great grandfather who left a legacy for others to follow, I am grateful that my brother and daughter are on their way to making their own history.

  3. Family, speaking of longevity, several years ago I searched our name in the Carribean because we had a distant relative, Doram, born early 1800’s who left the states when the slaves were given their freedom. He settled in the islands where I found on the internet a young girl who said he was her great great grandfather. Her father became interested and searched further finding two sisters living on the island of Dominica still carrying Doram as their names. At that time, one was 119 and the other 129! Her dad saw their birth certificates and their baptismal records. So eat healthy, exercise, don’t drink, do drugs or smoke and we may live just as long. We come from good genes!

  4. Dr Doram was my grandfather too, I’m Donna Doram. He and Momma Doram had lots of grandchildren and great grands. The Dorams have been an illustrious family with a substantial history. Dennis and Diadema Doram became very wealthy living in Danville, Kentucky in the early 1800’s. After being given his freedom papers, taught accounting and given $1500 to start his life, he invested in a hemp rope factory and bought prime real estate in the center of town. He became so wealthy that he also bought slaves with the express intention of educating them and setting them off for a life of success too. Currently in the Kentucky Historical Society portraits of Dennis and Diadema Doram hang in its permanent collection. From the family success of Dennis Doram, my grandfather Thomas Madison Doram became successful as the veterinarian of thoroughbred horses and livestock. Being a family of accomplishments and notoriety my grandmother’s sister, Nettie, went on to marry Booker T. Washington Jr. They had one child, a daughter whom they also named Nettie. She went to college at Tuskegee University where she met Frederick Douglass’s grandson. They married so my Aunt Nettie became Nettie Washington Douglass. Her daughter currently lives in Atlanta, Nettie Washington Douglass III. Her only son Kenny lives in LA and is a very active speaker, presenter of the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation. Their primary focus is helping to end Human Trafficking as well as continuing the heritage of Dennis and Diadema Doram, Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass by educating and inspiring children throughout the US and the world. The Doram’s are quite proud of our heritage.

  5. Very interesting story, and great to see that so many who commented responded have a family connection. Even I have a distant one. I am a cousin of Doram’s wife Bertha (2nd cousin 3x removed ot be exact), being descended from the Texas Hancocks. So, great to lean this piece of family history!

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