Interview, Bertrand Boddie

November 10, 1979

Bertrand Boddie (1924-1990) was born in New Rochelle, New York, to a family of twenty children. His father was a self-educated Baptist minister and his mother was the first black person to graduate from the East Stroudsburg State Teachers College, in Pennsylvania. Boddie attended New Rochelle High School and graduated at the age of fifteen. He went on to attend college at Virginia Union University, in Richmond, but was drafted into the military before completing his degree. After four years of military service, Boddie was accepted into the University of Rochester’s Medical School. He went on to work in Rochester as a family physician, a career he enjoyed for twenty years. He was also the first black president of the local American Heart Association. Boddie married Elizabeth Sherry in 1954 and they had four children together. At the time of this interview he was working as a staff physician for Kodak. Boddie passed away on October 15, 1990.

In his interview, Boddie discusses the influence the Baptist church has had on his life, the importance of a good education, the segregation of black colleges, and his work in raising awareness about health risks in black communities. The son of a Baptist minister, Boddie has attended black Baptist churches throughout his life and says his achievements have come out of the support of the black church community. He notes that black schools do not get enough recognition as quality institutions and points out that schools were segregated by state law, not by choice. Boddie proudly recalls when the Dean of the University of Rochester told him that his alma mater, Virginia Union, was a good school. He discusses being active in his community as a member of the Lake Avenue Baptist Church and the Rochester Oratorio Society, and he talks about his work with the Genesee Valley Heart Association to raise awareness about hypertension in black communities.

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  • 1970s