Walter Cornelius Reynolds, M.D., the first African American to receive a medical degree from what was then the University of Oregon Medical School, died Nov. 17, 2020, of non-COVID-19 causes. Born March 24, 1920, Reynolds was 100 years old.
After serving as an officer in the U.S. Air Force (then part of the U.S. Army), Reynolds was admitted to what is now the OHSU School of Medicine. He earned his medical degree in 1949.
Reynolds married Mildred Eleanor Squires of Seattle; they had six children. He joined his mentor Dr. DeNorval Unthank as one of only two African American physicians in Portland, according to OHSU archival records. In 1953, he opened his own practice, later building his own medical clinic on North Williams Avenue. The Phil Reynolds Clinic was named after his father.
Reynolds spoke from experience about addressing implicit bias in medicine. An OHSU article, “Centenarian’s wisdom remains a lesson today,” details his view of the value of service work and interaction with people of many ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds. In 2007, OHSU named one of the aerial trams “Walt” in honor of him.
Reynolds celebrated his 100th birthday last spring with immediate family at the Hazelwood Retirement Community in Northeast Portland. He is survived by four of his six children. The family is planning a private memorial service in March and offers suggestions for remembrances in his obituary.