Dr. Thomas W. Burton was the first African American physician in Springfield, Ohio, the first to open a drugstore, and the first to operate a successful African American newspaper.
Burton, the youngest of 15 children, was born a slave on May 4, 1860, in Madison County, Kentucky. When he was five, his father, Edward, died. His mother, Eliza, taught him the alphabet, and that remained the extent of his formal education until he was 21.
Burton worked to pay his way through school and at thirty-two. After earning his M.D., he began medical practicing in Springfield. The next year, he was commissioned as Assistant Surgeon of the Ninth Battalion Infantry, Ohio National Guard.
Burton is credited with being the first African American physician in Springfield, and the first African American to open a drugstore and operate a black-owned newspaper. He also maintained offices in Zanesville and Xenia and opened a shoe store. At one time, he also operated a hotel and health resort in Michigan. Dr. Thomas W. Burton died on March 23, 1939, at age 78.