Huntington, WV Black History

Robert Wesley Gunn, Sr., D.D.S. Dr.

Dentist

Dr. Robert Wesley Gunn Sr. was a longtime dentist and devoted servant to the Fairfield community.

Gunn was born on September 10, 1915. While attending Gary Negro Grade School and Gary District High School, his mentors included Memphis Tennessee Garrison and Coach James Wilkerson. During his senior year, Gunn served as the quarterback for the Gary District High School football team that won the 1934 state championship. He graduated in May 1934.

In September 1934, Gunn enrolled at Bluefield State College. He continued his interest in athletics and lettered in multiple sports. He also was active in several student organizations, including Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for Black men. While at Bluefield State, Gunn earned his Bachelor of Science degree and met his wife-to-be, Helen Stovall Hill. When he graduated in May 1938, the two became engaged. Two years later, following Miss Hill’s 1939 graduation from Bluefield State College and her 1940 graduation from Fisk University (Master of Arts in English Literature), the couple married.

For three years, they worked and saved their money so that Gunn could attend dental school. In June 1943, he entered Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, and was inducted into the United States Army’s specialized, accelerated, three-year training program. He graduated from Meharry as a Doctor of Dental Surgery in June 1946. Immediately thereafter, he went to West Virginia to take the West Virginia Dental Board exam. He passed with flying colors and on July 1, 1946, and was awarded his license to practice dentistry in West Virginia.

Soon thereafter, Dr. Gunn and his family moved to Huntington. Dr. Gunn opened his first office in the Rankin Building on 16th Street. In 1958, he had his own office built next door to the Rankin Building at what is now 911 Hal Greer Boulevard. During the early years of his practice, he pursued further studies in pediatric dentistry at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. This enabled him to participate in a citywide health project that provided all Cabell County students with twice-a-year visits to participating dentists. Dr. Gunn provided this service to the children attending Barnett Elementary School.

In addition to his busy dental practice, Dr. Gunn was an active member of St. Peter Claver Catholic Church and the Meharry Medical College Alumni Association. He also was a member of the American Dental Association, the West Virginia Dental Association, the Huntington Dental Society, Pediatric Dental Study Club, the Huntington Professional and Businessmen’s Club and the Revelers Social Club.

Dr. Gunn also served on the founding board of A.C.T.I.O.N., Inc. (A Committee to Improve Our Neighborhood), which was once a linchpin of community improvements in Fairfield. Dr. Gunn received numerous awards throughout his career, but he was most proud of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service Award, which he received in January 1993, shortly before he passed away on March 30, 1993.

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