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Robert Oliver

Born in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, Williams possessed a mixed racial ancestry, with Caucasian, Native American, and African-American antecedents on both sides of his family. Williams considered himself a “Negro,” and it was as a Negro that he moved to Janesville, Wisconsin, where at the age of seventeen he worked as a barber while attending a local academy and later reading law at night. Deciding against a career in law, he apprenticed with a local physician and then attended Chicago Medical College.

Williams evinced great skill as a surgeon and clinician. His most noteworthy contribution to medical practice came in 1893, when he performed the first successful open-heart surgery. He helped found both the American College of Surgeons and the National Medical Association (1895 the black equivalent of the the all white American Medical Association He also was the prime mover behind the Provident Hospital and Training School in ...