From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Nero, Benjamin W.

(born: 1937) 

Dr. Benjamin W. Nero, born in Greenwood, MS, was the first African American to graduate from the University of Kentucky (UK) College of Dentistry in 1967. He is an orthodontist. Prior to attending UK, Benjamin Nero attended Kentucky State College (now Kentucky State University) and was the starting quarterback on the football team.  He had also been the quarterback and captain on the Broad Street High School football team in Mississippi, where Nero led the team to a Northern Division Championship in 1955. After high school, Negro attended Tougaloo College, but decided to transfer to Kentucky State College where there was a stronger football program. He graduated from Kentucky State College with a bachelor's degree in biology, and was drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers in 1960 (now the San Diego Chargers). The year 1960 was the team's first season, as well as the first season for the original eight teams that made up the 3rd version of the American Football League (history at  Benjamin Nero attended the Los Angeles Chargers' training camp and was told that he could not play the quarterback position because he was a Negro. Benjamin Nero decided not to play professional football. He next looked to continue his education and was accepted into the second class at the UK College of Dentistry in 1963. After graduation, he began a rotating internship at Albert Einstein Hospital in Philadelphia (now Einstein Healthcare Network). Nero was enrolled in the hospital's three year residency in orthodontics. Upon completing the internship, Dr. Nero became the first African American graduate of the residency program. In 1971, Dr. Nero took over the practice of Dr. Knowlton Atterbeary in Philadelphia; at the time, Dr. Knowlton Atterbeary was the first and only African American orthodontist in Philadelphia. Dr. Nero's practice was a success and he opened two more practices in Philadelphia. Dr. Nero would also have a practice in New Jersey. Back in Kentucky, in 2010 a scholarship at the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry was named in honor of Dr. Benjamin W. Nero, and Dr. Robert H. Biggerstaff, the first African American faculty member at the college. For more see Dr. Benjamin Nero, a UK Alumni Association website; see Dr. Benjamin Nero in E. Arvedlund's article, "Memoirs by seniors offer lessons worth sharing," online at, also in the Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/04/2015, Advance edition, Business section, p.E01; and T. Kuykendall, "Nero praised as 'the Tiger Woods of orthodontics'," The Greenwood Commonwealth, 02/01/2010, News section [Note Writer Error: "He began looking into other schools across the nation and found a connection to the University of Kentucky [should be Kentucky State College] through his high school football coach."  See more about Dr. Knowlton Atterbeary and his family within the Richaleen Atterbeary online obituary at, also in The Times Leader (Wilkes-Barre), 11/12/2008, News section, p.A8.

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Item Relations

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Philadelphia inquirer (newspaper)
NKAA Source: The Greenwood commonwealth (Mississippi) (newspaper)
NKAA Source: The Times leader (Wilkes-Barre, PA) (newspaper)

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“Nero, Benjamin W.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 25, 2024,

Last modified: 2017-08-21 22:55:07