CDS received this obituary from the University of Illinois College
of Dentistry. Dr. Driskell is pictured on the right with his wife,
Naomi, in an undated photo.
Dr. Claude E. Driskell, a premier expert on the history of
African-American dentists, particularly in Chicago, and who
practiced dentistry in Chicago's Roseland community for 55 years,
died on May 23 at age 83.
Born in Chicago on Jan. 13, 1926, Claude Evans Driskell was a
decorated World War II veteran of the U.S. Army. He earned a
Bachelor of Science degree from Roosevelt University in Chicago in
1950 before entering the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)
College of Dentistry, where he earned his DDS degree in 1954.
Dr. Driskell served as a dental journalist for and served a term as
President of the Lincoln Dental Society (LDS), the largest
African-American dental society in Illinois, and also was a dental
journalist for the National Dental Association (NDA), the largest
African-American dental association in the United States. He earned
numerous citations and awards from the LDS and NDA for excellence
in dental journalism.
He served as editor of the LDS publication from 1966 to 1980,
Assistant Director of Publicity for the NDA from 1969 to 1972,
Director of Publicity for the NDA in 1972, and Assistant Editor of
the NDA Journal from 1976 to 1982. Dr. Driskell was the author of
the book The History of Chicago Black Dental Professionals,
Dr. Driskell wrote four chapters in the book Essays on Earl Renfroe-A Man of
Firsts, which was published in 2001. The book is a biography
of Dr. Earl W. Renfroe, a world-renowned orthodontist who was the
first African-American Department Head at the UIC College of
Dentistry. The book won an international Apex Award for
Publications Excellence from Communications Concepts, a writing and
publishing think-tank based outside Washington, DC.
"Dr. Driskell did this work while continuing to practice dentistry
full time," noted Dr. Richard Perry, former President of the
Illinois State Dental Society. "I think that's a great example of
school spirit-sacrificing personal time for the good of the
"Grateful for the work that Dr. Driskell and others had put into
Essays on Earl Renfroe,
the Renfroe family established an endowed scholarship that will
provide funding for minority students at the College in
perpetuity," said UIC College of Dentistry Assistant Dean for
Advancement and Alumni Affairs Mark J. Valentino.
A dental consultant and supervising dentist of the Dental Hygienist
Supportive Health Service of the Chicago Board of Education in the
mid-1970s, Dr. Driskell also was instrumental in the fight to
obtain dental insurance for Chicago teachers. In the early 1970s,
he served as faculty member at Chicago State University and the
Illinois Institute of Technology. He also served as Attending
Dental Surgeon at the Department of Stomatology at Michigan Avenue
Hospital in the 1960s.
A member of the Original Forty Club, a prominent African-American
professionals' organization, Dr. Driskell served as the
organization's historian and was the author of the club's 75th
anniversary book. He also was a Fellow in the Academy of General
Dentistry and the Academy of the International Biographical
At the UIC College of Dentistry, he served as an advisor to the
Dean's Committee on Black Students in the early 1970s..
Dr. Driskell is survived by his wife, Naomi Roberts Driskell,
daughter of Bishop William Roberts, founder of the Church of God in
Christ in Illinois, whom he married in 1953. They had five adult
children: Yvette Russell, wife of Al; Isaiah, husband of Barbara;
Ruth Davis, wife of Fredric; Reginald, husband of Gale; and Elaine
Chenier-Johnson, wife of Melvin. He also is survived by nine
grandchildren; many great-grandchildren, nieces, and nephews; and
his sister, Helen Driskell-Evans.
Dr. Driskell lived in the South Shore community of Chicago's South
Side. Interment is at Oakwood Cemetery in Chicago.