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Celebrating the leadership, vision, tenacity, and love of community shared by the recipients of the Great Living Cincinnatian Award, presented annually by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber since 1967.
Chester C. Pryor II, M.D. was born in Cincinnati on Sixth Street hill, January 2, 1930 to Marie and Percy G. Pryor. He was raised Christian in Allen Temple A.M.E. Church and joined Allen Temple Church at 12 years of age. Being raised in the Church included being an altar boy, Sunday School pianist, Junior and Senior Usher and a steward for 47 years (now Steward Emeritus). Dr. Pryor’s public communication skills were largely developed in Church Easter and Christmas programs.
When confronted by racism, Dr. Pryor looks to the wisdom of his mentor, the late Dr. Raymond E. Clarke, the first black doctor to perform surgery in a white hospital in Cincinnati. “Even if they’re wrong, always do right. Always do your work. Always be respectful. Always be honest and never plot revenge.” As Mark Curnutte wrote for the Enquirer in 1998, “no excuses” was Dr. Pryor’s creed.
With that attitude, Dr. Pryor became the First African American ophthalmologist in Cincinnati, the first African-American to intern at a private Cincinnati hospital, the first African American certified ophthalmologist in Ohio, the first African American treasurer of the Academy of Medicine in Cincinnati, the first African American president of the Cincinnati Eye Society and the first African American faculty member of the Academic Faculty of the UC Department of Ophthalmology. His story is highly featured in the book, “Breaking the Color Line in Medicine, African Americans in Ophthalmology.”
Dr. Pryor graduated Withrow High School, gained a bachelor’s of science in chemistry at Central State University, earned an M.D. degree at Howard University Medical School and completed residency at Boston City Hospital, Heed Fellowship 6 months of Ophthalmic Pathology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. He also served our nation as a captain in the U.S. Army, working as an ophthalmologist at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
He continued to serve through board seats and leadership with the Association for the Blind, Negro Sightless Society, Council on Aging and Mallory Center for Community Development. Social memberships include The Argus Club, Funday Nighter’s, Life Member of NAACP and Alpha Pi Alpha Fraternity Inc; Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity Inc., Prince Hall Free and Accepted Masons, True American Lodge #2, Past Grand Master of Ohio, and active member of the United Supreme Counsel (PHA) Northern Jurisdiction, Director of Medical Services.
He also served his community with medicine. It is estimated that half of Dr. Pryor’s patients were welfare referrals.
Dr. Pryor has been recognized as a Profile in Courage; first African American Professor Emeritus from the Department of Ophthalmology at UC, the Chester C. Pryor II, MD Lectureship was initiated in June of 2016, and Dr. Pryor was an inductee in the Black Business Hall of Fame Inductee. He has been honored by the African American Chamber of Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky and the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati. Additionally, he has received the Maurice F. Rabb Jr. M.D. Distinguished Medical Achievement Award; Glorifying the Lions Award, and was one of the first African-American recipient of the Heed Fellowship Award for advanced training in ophthalmology in the U.S.
Dr. Pryor has one son, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. He lives with his wife, Audrey, in North Avondale.
Recipients are selected from candidates by the Cincinnati Chamber’s senior council based on the following criteria: – Community service – Business and civic attainment on a local, state and national or international level – Leadership – Awareness of the needs of others – Distinctive accomplishments that have brought favorable attention to their community, institution or organization