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Clara Frye opened Tampa's first hospital for Blacks | News

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Clara Frye opened Tampa's first hospital for Blacks
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Tampa, Florida - Can you imagine suffering a life threatening emergency or needing surgery but the nearest hospital turned you away because of the color of your skin?

Well in the 1900's that's what life was like for Blacks across the Tampa Bay area. But Clara Frye, a nurse, changed that. In 1908 she opened a hospital out of her home in order to treat Black patients.

In 1923, she moved her hospital into a two-story, seventeen-bed hospital on the 1600 block of Lamar Avenue. In 1928, the City of Tampa purchased the hospital, then known as Tampa
Negro Hospital.

Photos: Clara Frye Memorial Hospital

Ten years later, the structure, in Roberts City on the west bank
of the Hillsborough River, was dedicated as the Clara Frye Memorial Hospital.  Howard W. Blake School was later built on the site.

Much of the money to build the 62-bed hospital came from the Federal Works Progress Administration (WPA).

Fred Hearns, a historian, says Frye loved doing for people and never put herself first. His mother, Grace Agnes Tillman Cark, worked at the hospital when he was a young boy.

Geraldine Twine worked at the hospital too. It was her first nursing assignment. She says she remembers reporting to work there on May 11, 1961.

Twine remembers hearing stories of a Black woman being shot 7 times and says Frye snatched the tablecloth off her dining room table and called a doctor to perform surgery on her. Twine says that patient survived.

She says back then White doctors and surgeons were ostracized for treating blacks.

Frye died in 1936 and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.

10 News anchor Reginald Roundtree will emcee Hillsborough County's 20th Black Heritage Celebration which will pay tribute to Clara Frye and other healthcare pioneers like Dr. Reche Williams, who was the first African-American to perform major surgery in Tampa in 1921 at the Clara Frye Hospital. Williams Middle Magnet School is named in his honor.

The event to honor their accomplishments is Friday, Feb. 10 at Noon at the Joe Chillura Courthouse Square at the corner of Kennedy Boulevard and Pierce Street in Tampa.

Entertainment will be provided by international gospel recording artist Dana Mackey. Tyrone Hill, an employee in the County's ITS Department, will read a selection from his self-published book, Poetic Reflections.

The annual Black Heritage Celebration is hosted by the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners and the Black Heritage Celebration Committee.

This year's sponsors include 10 News, Bright House Networks, Florida Sentinel Bulletin, Oriental Fish Company, and Pepsi Cola Bottling Company.

In case of rain the celebration will be moved across the street to the County Center, 2nd Floor, with lunch served in the 26th Floor Conference Room.

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