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

Hammons, James W.

(born: 1927  -  died: 2006) 

Dr. James W. Hammons was the first African American physician to practice medicine at Central Baptist Hospital, in Lexington, KY, and he was the first African American member of the Kentucky Medical Association. There were many firsts in the medical field for Dr. Hammons. 

In addition to his medical career, Dr. Hammons was a school teacher in Hopkinsville, KY. He was vice-president of the Lexington Committee on Open Housing and he was a member of the Human Rights Commission. His educational career included West Virginia State where he played football and was injured, forcing him to return to Louisville. Though he was born in Kentucky, Hammons' mother had moved back to Tennessee when his father died around 1932. Hammons returned to Louisville a little later to live with his uncle, Dr. John M. Hammons. After graduating from high school, he left Louisville to attend college. James W. Hammons returned to Louisville after his football injury at West Virginia State, and next attended and graduated in 1950 from Kentucky State College [now Kentucky State University] where he was manager of the football team.

He also attended the University of Kentucky where he earned his master's degree in 1954; Hammons was the first African American admitted to the medical department [public health bacteriology]. Hammons also graduated from the Chicago School of Osteopathy in 1959 [now the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine at Midwestern University]. He returned to Lexington and had a private practice on East Third Street and also took on patients of Dr. Bush Hunter who had become ill.

Dr. James W. Hammons treated patients of all races. He was the first osteopathic doctor in the country to belong to a medical association in 1969. Gaining membership had been a challenge that became a success with the assistance of many of his comrades in the Fayette County Medical Society. Dr. James W. Hammons was the nephew of Dr. John Matthew Hammons who was the director of the Vernereal Clinic and head of the first Birth Control Clinic for African American women in Louisville, KY. Dr. James W. Hammons' ancestors included both African American slaves and slave owners. 

For more see J. Ogawa, "Physician James Hammons dies," Lexington Herald-Leader, 08/12/2006, p.B4; J. Warren, "One patient at a time - Lexington osteopath has broken barriers for years," Lexington Herald-Leader, 02/10/2002, p.B1; and D. Burdette, "36-years later, doctor still makes house calls for one special patient," Lexington Herald-Leader, 04/03/1995, p.B1.

Access Interview Listen to the recording and read about the James W. Hammons oral history interviews available at the University of Kentucky Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, item records in the SPOKE Database.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Jefferson County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Fayette County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Christian County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Franklin County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Louisville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Lexington, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Hopkinsville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Frankfort, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Item Relations

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Entry: Hunter, John E. [Hunter Foundation (Lexington, KY)]
NKAA Entry: Birth Control Movement and African American Women in Kentucky
NKAA Source: Lexington herald-leader (newspaper)

Related Entries Citing this Entry


Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Hammons, James W.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 24, 2024,

Last modified: 2020-06-20 14:57:16