The History of Dr. William Wells

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Dr. William Monroe Wells was a prominent African-American physician in Orlando during the first half of the 20th century. One of Orlando’s first Black doctors, Dr. Wells came to Orlando in 1917. In 1921 he built a hotel for African-Americans barred from Florida’s segregated hotels. Soon afterwards, he built South Street Casino, an entertainment venue he built to host some of the most famous African American performers of the time.

William Monroe Wells, who was born in Ft. Gaines, Georgia in 1889, arrived in Orlando in 1917 after completing his medical training at Meharry Medical College.  During part of WWII, Dr. William Monroe Wells was the only African American physician in Orlando.  During segregation, white physicians did not treat African American patients. African American doctors, therefore, earned their money from people of their own race.  He worked very hard to serve the growing African American population in the City Beautiful.  With the help of his assistant, Mrs. Josie Belle Jackson, Dr. Wells is known to have delivered over 5.000 babies in Orlando.  He treated patients who suffered from pneumonia, influenza, scarlet fever and other serious illnesses before drugs like penicillin were introduced.  Many of Dr. Wells’ patients were extremely poor.  He treated their illnesses though they many times could not afford to pay his fee.  This allowed them to speak forcefully against poor conditions that existed in the African American community without fear of losing their livelihood.

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