Virginia Changemakers
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Dana Olden Baldwin (1881 - 1972)





Physician and Entrepreneur


For many years, Dana Olden Baldwin (March 20, 1881–November 9, 1972) was Martinsville’s only African-American physician. Bright and hardworking, he graduated from high school in North Carolina at age 16 and, after teaching school and working on a farm, earned his medical degree from Leonard Medical College of Shaw University in 1910. Licensed by the Virginia State Board of Medical Examiners that year, he established his practice in Martinsville. Baldwin volunteered for the Army Medical Reserve Corps when the United States entered World War I and was commissioned a first lieutenant, serving in France with the 317th Sanitary Train of the 92d Division.

Baldwin returned home after his honorable discharge in 1919 and acquired property around his medical practice to spur economic development within Martinsville’s African-American community. He established several businesses, including brick-making and garment factories. He also opened Saint Mary’s Hospital, where he treated anyone who needed medical attention. “Baldwin’s Block,” with its restaurants, hotel, barber shop, beauty parlor, dental practice, pharmacy, and theater, became the social and commercial hub for African Americans in the vicinity of Martinsville. Baldwin also operated the nearby Sandy Beach Resort and created the June German Ball, an annual social event and dance that hosted noted African-American entertainers, including Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Chuck Berry. Although “Baldwin’s Block” no longer stands, the city established the Dr. Dana O. Baldwin Memorial Park to honor his legacy.

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Image Courtesy of the Library of Virginia