During the 1920s, a young African American physician sat in his office in Covington, Kentucky, waiting on his next patient. Tired but focused, the doctor had logged many hours during the past few days at his daily practice as well as at the local hospital. At this time, he was one of a few physicians who served the local African American community as well as the surrounding region.
However, despite the outstanding contributions that Dr. James E. Randolph made to the lives of hundreds of persons of color in the area, he never saw himself as community leader or a political activist. He was just doing his job.
Nevertheless, the educational journey, work and legacy of Dr. Randolph had an enormous impact on all of his patients and on the community at-large.
Born on January 17, 1888, in Pike County, Missouri, the grandson of enslaved African American, James E. Randolph attended Lincoln University, located in Jefferson City, Missouri, as an undergraduate. Once he completed his degree at Lincoln University, Randolph entered and subsequently obtained his medical degree from Meharry Medical College, located in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1917, while working part-time as a railroad Pullman Porter.
Upon graduation Randolph began his medical career in Shelbyville, Tennessee, where he also met his first wife Sarah. After his military service in World War I in the United States Army Medical Corps, he moved to Covington, Kentucky in 1922 and immediately established his practice on Greenup Street, which was located there for over forty years.
While living in Covington, on January 21, 1959, Randolph’s wife Sarah died. However, several years later, he married Loretta Spencer, who was originally a native of Frankfort, Kentucky. During this same time period, he began to serve as the staff physician at Lincoln-Grant High School, in Covington, which was for decades the only high school in Northern Kentucky that African American students could attend. In 1973, when the high school changed its name to the 12th District School, Randolph began to take care of many of his patients at his office.
In 1974, the City of Covington named an East side neighborhood park after Randolph. Two years later, in 1976, he was awarded a Gold Medal for his community service by the LaSalette Academy of Covington, Kentucky. During these years Randolph also became the first African American physician to work at St. Elizabeth Medical Center (formerly the St. Elizabeth Hospital) and also the first person of African descent to become a member of the Campbell-Kenton County Medical Society. Between 1922 and 1958 more than 85% of the African American babies that were born in Covington were delivered by Randolph.
Randolph passed away in 1981 and is buried at Mary Smith Cemetery in Elsmere.
In 1997, he was posthumously inducted into the Northern Kentucky Leadership Hall of Fame. In addition to the park that bears his name, in 2004, the City of Covington erected a historic marker in front of St. James A.M.E. Church (120 Lynn St. in Covington), where Dr. Randolph had been a longtime member.
Indeed, Dr. James E. Randolph had become a legend without any fanfare.
(excerpt from “No Child Will Be Left Behind” - African American Educational History in Northern Kentucky to 1910 – A Small Glimpse of Reality by Dr. Eric R. Jackson)