Flowers became known as the “Godfather of Arkansas Medicine” because he provided quality care to the less fortunate. Through sacrifice and dedication, he accommodated patients regardless of their income.
Flowers and nine others will be honored for their efforts toward equality in healthcare during a public ceremony to be held in the River Market District in Little Rock on Friday, October 24, 2014. Learn more at the 2014 Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail Commemoration.
Dr. Cleon A. Flowers Sr. grew up in Stamps, Arkansas, and graduated from Stamps Colored High School.
Interested in biology, Flowers earned his undergraduate degree from Arkansas AM&N (now University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff). He went to medical school at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, and received his medical degree in 1943.
While Flowers was an intern at Meharry, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a major. Flowers returned to Pine Bluff to practice medicine.
Dr. Flowers opened his private practice in 1945 and in 1946 he bought the building occupied by the United Links Hospital, a medical facility for black people, which he continued to operate until 1950. Today it is the site of the Flowers Professional Building.
As a doctor, his biggest concern was quality care for his patients regardless of income or need. In a 1999 interview with the Pine Bluff Commercial newspaper Flowers said, “Two dollars for an office visit, $3 for a house call and $35 for a home baby delivery. I even got paid with pigs, chickens, homegrown vegetables and wild game. Those were the good old days.”
Flowers’ willingness to meet the need of the underserved earned him the monicker the “Godfather of Arkansas Medicine.” In addition to accepting goods for services rendered he often kept his office open until 3 a.m. to see patients who could not come during regular business hours due to their work schedules.
He became one of the first African American doctors on staff at what is now the Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pine Bluff and in 1954 he made national news when he delivered the first Siamese twins during a house call.
His service extended beyond his medical practice. He was also a trusted community leader who served on the board of trustees for his alma mater, UAPB, and was a member of the the NAACP for more than 50 years.
Flowers practiced well into his 80’s and was active in the National Medical Association and served as a president of the Arkansas Medical, Dental and Pharmaceutical Association.
Posted In: Honorees