FROM STAFF REPORTS
Dr. Calvin Hylton Shirley, one of South Florida’s first Black doctors, died of natural causes on June 23 at Broward Health Medical Center. He was 91.
Dr. Shirley was one of the first four Black physicians admitted to the staff of then-Broward General Hospital (now Broward Health Broward General Medical Center). The move paved the way for the acceptance of Black physicians.
Funeral services were held June 30 in Fort Lauderdale for Dr. Shirley, who was born Jan. 28, 1921 in Tallahassee to the late Rev. Edwin S. Shirley and Mrs. Stella Gertrude (Young) Shirley of Jamaica, West Indies. He was the oldest of four brothers and three sisters.
After graduating from Booker T. Washington High School at age 16 in Pensacola, Dr. Shirley matriculated at Florida A&M University, where he obtained his pre-medical education majoring in biology and a double minor in chemistry and education.
From Boston to Broward
After college, he was drafted into the Navy during World War II. He then enrolled in the Boston College of Physicians & Surgeons in Boston, graduating summa cum laude.
After finishing his internship and residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Boston City Hospital, he returned to Florida in 1949 to commence his medical practice.
He joined three Black medical doctors – James F. Sistrunk, Von D. Mizell, and R. L. Brown – who were already established in Fort Lauderdale at Provident Hospital, the only major health care facility in Broward County at the time that would treat Blacks.
According to historical records, Provident was a general hospital, owned and operated by Broward County’s Black community through a non-profit corporation. It cared for Black patients anywhere in South Florida, was operated by an all-Black administrative staff and offered medical and surgical care under the standards set by the American Hospital Association.
Dr. Shirley became a staff physician there, eventually delivering more than 6,000 babies during his professional career. He later opened medical practices in Fort Lauderdale and Delray Beach.
Dr. Shirley and his late wife, registered nurse Jeanette E. Shirley, implemented the first curriculum and operations for the Broward County Licensed Practical Nurse training program. He later became the county’s first medical advisor to the Sickle Cell Foundation.
Dr. Shirley was also instrumental in getting a Broward Health Department building erected in a predominately Black community, thereby affording more accessibility to available county health facilities and public health services. He also was the first Black doctor to serve on the executive board of the Florida State Health Planning Council.
Nationally, Dr. Shirley served 15 years as the grand clinical director and assistant grand medical director of the Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World. This service is rendered during annual Grand Lodge Conventions held in various large cities throughout the United States.
He retired in 2004.
“Dr. Calvin Shirley spent decades helping his patients and transforming health care in Broward County. He was an amazing man who not only brought thousands of lives into this world but worked to change the world, into which they were born, said Frank Nask, CEO and president of Broward Health.
“…I’ve come to understand his character and commitment through his daughter Jasmin Shirley, our vice president of community health services. A dedication to healing and public service are his legacy and those qualities continue in his children.”
Dr. Shirley was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. He was preceded in death by his wife Jeanette, a brother and two sisters.
He is survived by his daughters Jasmin Shirley and Dr. Carmen Shirley Mack; sons Calvin Hylton Shirley Jr., John Walbridge Shirley and Cedric Hylton Shirley; five grandchildren; and a host of other relatives.