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Dr. Edith Irby Jones

Attending integrated classes, but dining in a segregated area of the campus cafeteria, Dr. Edith Irby Jones, in 1952, became the first African-American to graduate from the College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. In fact, she was the first black admitted to a white medical school, south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Dr. Jones was born Dec. 23, 1927 near Conway to Robert and Mattie Irby. Graduating at the top of her class from Langston High School in Hot Springs in 1944, she worked in Chicago as a clerk-typist, but went on to attend Knoxville College at Knoxville, Tenn. There, she pledged Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and was active in a number of other organizations before graduating in 1948 with majors in chemistry, biology, and physics.

In spite of what seemed to be astronomical odds, Dr. Jones applied to the all-white UAMS College of Medicine. Studying clinical psychology at Northwestern University in Chicago, she learned from a TIME magazine reporter that she had been accepted at UAMS. In 1950, she married Dr. James B. Jones, a professor at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Dr. Jones and her husband are the parents of three children.

After graduation, Dr. Jones interned during 1952-53 at University Hospital. She had a general practice in Hot Springs from 1953 to 1959, and then went on to practice internal medicine until 1962 at Baylor Affiliated Hospitals. Since then, she has been in private practice in Houston.

Dr. Jones was not through with firsts. She became the first woman to lead the National Medical Association, the organization of African-American physicians. She has received a host of accolades, including the hanging of her portrait in the entrance hall of the University of Arkansas School of Medicine in 1985.