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Permanent link  Dr. Claude Driskell, African American Dental Historian, Dies at 83

06/29/2009


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, 1850-1983.

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 school."

"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 Association.

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.

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