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Thomas L. Jefferson


Dr. Thomas Leroy Jefferson

Thomas Leroy Jefferson (1867-1939) was born in Hazelhurst, Mississippi. His father, Thomas Jefferson, was light-skinned and a leading citizen in Hazelhurst after the Civil War. According to family legend, he was related to President Thomas Jefferson through Sally Hemmings, one of Jefferson’s slaves.

Jefferson taught school in New Iberia, Louisiana, while he ran a drugstore. He attended Meharry Medical School in Nashville, Tennessee. Jefferson first practiced medicine in Orange, Texas, and New Orleans, Louisiana. About 1900, he moved his family to Palm Beach, where he opened a medical office in the black community known as the “Styx.”

By 1912, after the residents of the Styx moved to West Palm Beach, Jefferson opened a medical office on North Olive Avenue and a drugstore at Clematis Street and Rosemary Avenue. He was the first black physician in West Palm Beach, nicknamed the “bicycle doctor” because he was frequently seen cycling around town, elegant and upright, with his black medical bag.

Jefferson retired when he was 60, but two years later the stock market crash of 1929 left him broke. He returned to providing medical care to the black community until a few years before he died.

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