Civil rights activist William G. Anderson, DO, looks back on fighting segregation with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Anderson recalls his relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his 25-year career as a surgeon.


William G. Anderson, DO, has worn many hats in his lifetime. Born in 1927, Dr. Anderson has served as a surgical resident, the president of the AOA and a civil rights activist, just to name some of his achievements. In a recent interview with the Detroit Free Press, Anderson told the story of how he got involved in the civil rights movement, including his close relationship with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr, PhD.

Dr. Anderson had opened his own medical practice in Albany, Georgia. It was here that he first was inspired to join the civil rights movement. In 1961, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee came to town to recruit students to “challenge the segregation system that denied Black citizens the opportunity to register to vote.” Dr. Anderson was motivated to join when he saw the students being turned away, intimidated and even arrested.

As time went on, the group, known as the Albany Movement, grew and was eventually supported by Dr. King, with whom Dr. Anderson was close. Dr. Anderson even appeared on Meet the Press in 1962 to represent the cause.

William G. Anderson, DO (center), welcomes the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., PhD (left), and the Rev. Ralph David Abernathy to his home. At the time, Dr. Anderson lived in Albany, Georgia.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the Albany Movement “brought down the wall of segregation in regional public facilities.” Afterwards, Dr. Anderson moved to Detroit. On April 4, 1968, Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. At the time, Dr. Anderson was on the phone with Dr. King’s wife, Coretta: “She used to call me Andy,” Dr. Anderson said. “I was at home in Detroit, sitting with my wife and kids, and the message came on the air, that Martin had been assassinated in Memphis by an unknown assailant. I was on the phone, talking to Coretta. She said, ‘Wait a minute, Andy – something has happened to Martin.’ She never came back to the phone.”

While in Detroit, Dr. Anderson had a 25-year career in surgery at the Art Center Hospital and he maintained a medical group practice until 1984. Later, Dr. Anderson joined the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, and he continues to teach surgical anatomy today at the age of 94. He spearheaded the school’s “Slavery to Freedom: An American Odyssey” lecture series, which has brought civil rights leaders and experts to the campus for the past 22 years.

For more on Dr. Anderson’s incredible life, be sure to check out “5 questions with civil rights icon William G. Anderson, DO,” an in-depth Q&A detailing Dr. Anderson’s legacy. “Civil rights trailblazer William G. Anderson, DO, on his journey to medicine, leading Albany Movement” and “Civil Rights leader William G. Anderson, DO, shares more details about his life and upbringing” share more about Dr. Anderson’s life, including his early life and more details of his time as a doctor.

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