Interview Date


Biographical History

Howard Phillip Venable (1913-1998) was born in Windsor, Ontario, and earned his undergraduate and medical degrees from Wayne State University in Detroit. Venable completed his internship and residency at Homer G. Phillips Hospital in 1942, and the next year became the first African American ophthalmologist to be awarded a master of science degree in ophthalmology from New York University. From 1943 until 1979, Venable served as chair of the department of ophthalmology at Homer G. Phillips Hospital. In 1979 Homer G. Phillips Hospital closed due to financial and political pressures.

Venable was also the first black physician to join the clinical faculty of St. Louis University School of Medicine. He was appointed an instructor in ophthalmology in 1947 and was senior instructor from 1954-1959.

In 1959, he was appointed instructor in ophthalmology at Washington University School of medicine, and was later promoted to assistant professor of clinical ophthalmology. Venable was the first African American to serve as an associate examiner for the American Board of Ophthalmology, serving from 1969 to 1981.


An interview of the Washington University Medical Center Desegregation History Project, conducted by Edwin W. McCleskey and associates, 1990. Approximate Length: 1 hour and 16 minutes.

Please note that some of Venable’s statements contain ambiguities that the interviewers were unable to verify.

Howard Phillip Venable discusses his experience at Homer G. Phillips Hospital, the desegregation of hospitals in St. Louis, his work with students, and his experience with housing discrimination.

Venable describes how he came to work at Homer G. Phillips Hospital and the segregation of medical care and medical education in St. Louis in the 1930s and 1940s. He explains the connections between Homer Phillips, Washington University, and St. Louis University, and discusses the doctors from Washington University and Barnes Hospital who came to Homer Phillips. Venable also relates his work identifying ophthalmological differences between Black and white patients.

He addresses his role in desegregating an ophthalmology society in St. Louis, the housing discrimination he faced in Creve Coeur and his case against the city, and the part he played in the desegregation of St. Louis hospitals. He relates his experience as a Black doctor before Barnes integrated, and the white patients he saw at his private practice. He also discusses the closure of Homer Phillips and the differences between Homer Phillips and Max Sarkloff Hospital (City Hospital No. 1).

Venable discusses the establishment of the Katie and Howard Phillip Venable Student Research Fund in Ophthalmology and his experience as an associate examiner for the American Board of Ophthalmology. He also explains what he thinks should be done to get more Black students into medical school.


Washington University Medical Center Desegregation History Project


Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives


Washington University School of Medicine, Saint Louis, Missouri

PC054-S13-B01-F30-i02_Howard_Phillip_Venable_oral_history_audio_recording.mp3 (71268 kB)
Howard Phillip Venable Oral History Audio