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Dr. John H. Gladney, pioneering physician, passes at 89

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Posted: Thursday, December 1, 2011 12:05 am

The St. Louis community bids farewell to a medical pioneer and community servant as Dr. John H. Gladney, professor emeritus of otolaryngology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, died on November 26, 2011 at age 89.

“Dr. John Gladney was a role model and an inspiration to the practice of medicine,” said Dr. Michael Railey, who heads the Office of Multicultural Affairs at SLU School of Medicine.

“When we looked at what he has accomplished over his life, it makes all of us want to excel, and we will continue to honor his memory with the John Gladney Diversity Awards yearly at Saint Louis University.”

The John H. Gladney MD Diversity Awards at Saint Louis University were established in 1999 to celebrate diversity in the School of Medicine. The awards are given annually to a fourth-year SLU medical student who has contributed significantly to the promotion and enhancement of diversity in the medical school.

Dr. Gladney chaired the Department of Otolaryngology at SLU, the first African American to chair a clinical department at the medical school.

Dr. Gladney and his wife Clarice were longtime, highly-regarded members of Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ in St. Louis.

“Both of them, people of great faith, very loving and giving people,” said Cynthia Bumb, Dr. Gladney’s former pastor. “I just consider him a real giant in the St. Louis community, and his passing is a loss to the community.”

The Rev. Dr. Allen Grothe, the current pastor at Pilgrim Congregational UCC, reflected on the struggles for an African American of Dr. Gladney’s generation in the elite fields of medical practice and instruction.

“He had to fight a great many battles for the kinds of opportunities that should have come naturally,” Grothe said.

“I see him as a pioneer who helped to pave the way for others and who did so with great dignity and grace.”    

A life of service 

John Hersel Gladney Sr. was born on November 18, 1922, in Little Rock, Arkansas, to John Citizen Gladney and Emma Louise Sills Gladney, who preceded him in death when he was 5 years old. 

He attended segregated schools and displayed early leadership abilities as president of the student body at Dunbar High School. He entered Talladega College in Alabama in 1939, and in September of 1940 he met Clarice Taylor, whom he married following her graduation.  They married on June 19, 1944 (Juneteenth Day), and they enjoyed 67 wonderful years of marriage. 

To this union were born three children: John H. Gladney Jr., who preceded him in death, and two daughters, Connie Agard and Judy Gladney.

Gladney began his military career in the U.S. Army Specialized Training Program, which enabled him to pay for his medical school training. He later enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, serving in Morocco.

Dr. Gladney trained at Homer G. Phillips Hospital in St. Louis. He took his otolaryngology residency at both Hines VA Hospital and the University of Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary in Chicago.  He returned to St. Louis in 1956 and established his ear, nose and throat practice. 

Dr. Gladney and Dr. Frank O. Richards Sr. shared an office at 3737 N. Kingshighway in St. Louis. Their friendship started as teenagers working in Talladega shipyards, with one waiting tables and the other washing dishes. The friendship lasted more than 70 years.

“He would be like a brother,” Richards said. “I’ve never known a man who was more honest and true.”

Dr. Gladney was on the staff of many local hospitals, including Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, Firmin Desloge Hospital, Jewish Hospital and Central Medical Center. After retiring, he served as a tutor and mentor at Laclede Elementary School.

Dr. Gladney was a member of many organizations including both Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and Eta Boule of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity. He received numerous awards, including the 1991 Stellar Achievement Award presented by the St. Louis American Foundation, and he was the first African-American physician admitted to The Triological Society.

Dr. Gladney is survived by his wife Clarice; daughters, Connie and Judy; sister, Kathryn Ellis and her daughter Gina Ellis of Detroit; five grandchildren – Greer Gladney, Lamar Agard, Brianna Agard Stewart (Danny), Erica Vickers Cage (Warren) and Aaron Vickers; seven great grandchildren; and a host of family and friends.

Family visitation will be held Saturday, Dec. 3 from noon until 2 p.m. at Pilgrim Congregational UCC, 826 Union Blvd. followed by a memorial service at 2 p.m.

At his request, his body is being donated to Saint Louis University for medical research. 

In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Alzheimer’s Association, Talladega College, Talladega, Alabama; Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tennessee; or to Pilgrim Congregational UCC.

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