UW Today

This is an archived article.

October 16, 2008

First African-American UW med school graduate, dies at 79

Lloyd C. Elam, the first African-American graduate of the UW School of Medicine, died Oct. 4. Elam died of a heart attack while traveling in Mississippi. He was 79.

Elam served on the faculty of Meharry Medical College in Nashville for more than 25 years, and held several leadership positions there, including a tenure as the institution’s president, a post he attained at age 39.


Elam, a native of Little Rock, Ark., served in the military before completing his undergraduate degree from Roosevelt University in Chicago. He then came to the UW for medical school, earning his medical degree in 1957. He joined the faculty at Meharry, a historically black medical school, in the early 1960s, and became the college’s president in 1968.

Under Elam’s leadership, Meharry expanded significantly, adding degree programs in public health, biochemistry and other fields. Elam also helped oversee the addition of several buildings on campus, including a library, a basic-science research building, and a new medical tower that is now the city hospital in Nashville.


Elam was a member and leader on several boards and professional organizations, including the board of directors of Merck, the National Medical Association, the Black Psychiatrists of America, the 100 Black Men of Nashville, and the Metropolitan Nashville Davidson County Hospital Authority. He received many awards and honors during his career, including an honorary Doctor of Laws from Harvard University, a distinguished service award from the National Board of Medical Examiners, membership in Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society, the Nashville Club Man of the Year Award, and the highest alumni award from Roosevelt University.

Meharry Medical College established the Lloyd C. Elam Mental Health Center in his honor.