Historical Highlights of the West Oakland Health Council

50 years ago in the midst of the Civil Rights and the Black Power Movements, four African American mothers launched The West Oakland Health. It immediately rose up as a neighborhood hub for healthcare, food and housing programs, and voter registration. West Oakland Health was a spark that led the transformation in community health and advocacy in California and the nation. Today, West Oakland Health reaches throughout the East Bay with five sites in Berkeley, West Oakland, and East Oakland. Providing high quality, state-of-the art healthcare, comprehensive adult and family medicine, West Oakland Health honors Its storied history and embraces its legacy values: love, hope, respect, health, and community. 

A group of West Oakland residents created the West Oakland Health Center to meet the health needs of the nearby community.

In the fall of 1966, Robert Stone, M.D., returned from Boston, Massachusetts with an idea, the idea that there could be a place in West Oakland at which West Oakland residents could receive health care services. While in Boston, Dr. Stone learned that Boston’s Tuft University Medical School had opened two health centers in communities, which had very few health care services, one in 1965 in Boston and one in 1966 in Mound Bayou, Mississippi. The health centers had been placed where the people who needed the services were. 

Dr. Stone discussed with Rev. Evan Golden who had a church in West Oakland. Rev. Golden spoke to Ms. Cloteal Davis, an African American resident of West Oakland. Ms. Davis invited Rev. Golden to speak at a PTA meeting at Clawson Elementary School in West Oakland.

After Rev. Golden’s presentation, Ms. Davis and Ms. Olivia Parks, both of whom worked at Clawson, decided to see if there was interest in among other residents in trying to have a health center in West Oakland. Ms. Davis and Ms. Parks recruited Ms. Jessie Hamilton and Ms. Edith Brown to assist them. These four women are considered the founders of the organization.

The founders were joined by a few others, and in the spring of 1968 had a 12 member Board of Directors, who were:

Ms. Cloteal Davis
Ms. Olivia Parks
Ms. Jessie Hamilton
Ms. Edith Brown

Ms. Jessie Capels
Ms. Novella Haliburton
Ms. Viola Johnson
Ms. Elb McMahan

Ms. Geraldine Robinson
Mr. Booker Emery
Rev. George Robinson
Mr. Ralph Williams

With the assistance of Rev. Golden and a University of California graduate student working with him, and in consultation with officials of the United States Department of