Earl Ramsey Claiborne, MD – Class of ‘54
(August 16, 1921 – September 11, 1995)
Dr. Earl Ramsey Claiborne was born in Charleston, South Carolina. He grew up in the segregated South, forced to attend all-black schools where he excelled in science. He went on to graduate Talladega College, an HBCU in Alabama, and Howard University Medical School in Washington, D.C. He interned at Homer G. Phillips Hospital in St. Louis when it was the only hospital where black patients could be treated. He went on to become (one of) the first African American dermatology residents at Stanford School of Medicine, a distinction of which he was deeply proud.
Dr. Claiborne had an encyclopedic knowledge of medicine and was sometimes able to diagnose even rare or obscure illnesses with a single exam.
He trained at Stanford under the tutelage of then dermatology department chair, Dr. Eugene Farber. Dr. Farber was more than a mentor. He and Dr. Claiborne shared a deep desire to help patients, irrespective of wealth or social status. They remained friends the rest of their lives.
After training at Stanford and serving nine years in the U.S. Air Force, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, Dr. Claiborne went into private practice in Oakland and later Los Angeles.
Dr. Claiborne was active in the Los Angeles community, serving as a member of the Julian Ross Medical Center, the Urban League, 100 Black Men of Los Angeles, the National Medical Association and as an officer in the Charles R. Drew Medical Auxiliary. He served as a trustee board member of Talladega College.
As he built his medical practice, he also built a family. He married Marie Strickland Claiborne and they had two sons, Keith and Ron, a professional television journalist. Keith passed away in 2018. Mrs. Claiborne died in 2019.
His son Ron remembers Dr. Claiborne as a kind, wise loving father who had a special love of sports. He had been an outstanding tennis and basketball player in his youth and early adulthood. He was especially fond of quoting aphorisms, many of them spun from his own wit and wisdom.
His son warmly recalls that his father was passionate about medicine, but what stood out was how kind, even reverential he was toward his patients, introducing them to his boys “as if they were royalty.”
Dr. Claiborne passed on to his children his traits of curiosity, concern and respect for people, even his penchant to striking up conversations with complete strangers. Ron Claiborne shared the following reflection:
"“He loved diseases of the skin and would often stop people on the street to ask about their condition and offer his advice. He solved a medical mystery for my friend Lenny in the late ‘80s. Lenny was told he had a rare disease; his doctors couldn’t figure it out. With just a few questions about his symptoms, Dad astutely solved it. He told Lenny he had San Joaquin Valley fever. He was right; he accurately diagnosed an issue that had completely baffled all the experts at Cedars Sinai.” – Ron Claiborne
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