Bobby Doctor was born in Columbia, S.C. in 1939. He spent most of his youth living in Columbia’s Allen Benedict Court housing projects. Doctor attended Carver Elementary School and C.A. Johnson High School. He is a graduate of S.C. State University (B.A.) which recognized him as the 1981 Outstanding Alumnus. Doctor credits his mother for encouraging him to get his college degree instead of pursuing a military career.
Doctor’s early years growing up in the segregated south shaped his life’s path to lead by example. As a college student, Doctor was inspired by the student sit-ins in Greensboro, N.C. on February 1, 1960. The next day, he organized a group of students in Orangeburg to start the sit-in movement in South Carolina. This was said to be the second group in the whole country to sit-in at public facilities, although they didn’t receive the same recognition as later sit-ins in larger cities like Greenville and Atlanta. Doctor was later jailed for similar activities in Columbia.
Doctor’s professional career spans more than 50 years of work on the front lines fighting for human rights, civil rights, and equal opportunities. Doctor’s path took him to the Virginia Council on Human Relations and the Tennessee regional office of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in the mid-1960s where he led regional efforts to champion civil rights. His later roles on the national stage as Director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and South Christian Leadership Council gave him the opportunity to have a direct impact on federal civil rights policy. Doctor married his late wife, Joan Pharr Doctor and together they have three sons, Robert, Michael, and Marcus Garvey. After 45 years of marriage, Joan passed away on January 13, 2008.
Over the years, Doctor has written extensively on civil rights issues in the South, including a study on the Tuskegee, Alabama experiments of the 1930s, where Black men suffering from syphilis were left untreated for years so the government could study the disease. Other studies and writings focused on topics surrounding school desegregation, police/community relations, migrant and seasonal farm workers, and the state of prisons. He retired 20 years ago and lives in Columbia with his wife, Geraldine Twyman Doctor.
Presented through a partnership between the South Carolina Department of Education and South Carolina ETV.
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