Earl Wiley Renfroe (January 9, 1907 – November 14, 2000) was a history-maker in the field of orthodontics and in breaking down the barriers of racism.
Dr. Renfroe taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry from 1933 through the 1980s. For many years, he was acknowledged as one of the best hands-on clinical orthodontics instructors in the world.
With fellow faculty member Dr. Thomas K. Barber of the College’s Department of Pediatric Dentistry, Dr. Renfroe in 1957 wrote a seminal article on the concepts of preventive and interceptive orthodontics. Dr. Renfroe also is considered one of the “fathers of orthodontics” in Brazil.
In 1966, his being named head of the Department of Orthodontics made him the first African American to lead a department at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Den.
Born in Chicago January 9, 1907, Earl Renfroe graduated from Austin O. Sexton Grammar School in 1921 and from James H. Bowen High School in 1925. At Bowen, be became the first African American in the school’s history to attain the rank of Cadet Commander in the Reserve Officers Training Corps.
Renfroe became the first student at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry to work outside the College full-time while carrying a full course load. He graduated first in his class of 127.
In 1932, he joined the Illinois National Guard, and eventually was awarded the rank of general in 1984. In1934 he became the first African American in Illinois, and only the third in the nation, to obtain a commercial pilot’s license. He later served as an inspector for the Illinois Aeronautics Commission.
In 1988, he was honored with the Distinguished Alumnus Award by the UIC Dental Alumni Association, and two years later was inducted into the Chicago Senior Citizens Hall of Fame
His wide range of interests, flying, amateur radio operation, pistol and rifle marksmanship, model locomotives, and SCUBA diving—saw him active in over a dozen civic organizations.
Renfroe was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
Renfroe was married to the former Hilda Forte, who died September 13, 2000. His sons are Earl Renfroe Jr. and Stephen Renfroe, and his daughter is Diane Renfroe.
Dr. Renfroe is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA.