Racial segregation in the 1900s meant that blacks who needed medical care in Huntington, West Virginia, in Cabell County, were turned away. Although the city had five white hospitals, in 1912, Dr. Clinton Constantine “C. C.” Barnett and wife Clara Matthews purchased a large Victorian building in the heart of the thriving black community and opened its first black hospital. Now a national historic landmark, the hospital had 50 beds, two operating rooms, and an X-ray department, and was recognized nationally for excellent healthcare. Mrs. Barnett was the hospital superintendent, though, at the time, black women were never selected for administrative positions.
The Bennetts were devoted to providing educational opportunity as well, and the hospital’s nursing school was accredited by the National Medical Association. The hospital provided internships for black medical students and opportunity for black physicians to gain experience with modern medical equipment. In 1930, Dr. Bennett was tapped by Governor Howard M. Gore to lead the establishment of Lakin Hospital for the treatment of mentally-ill African-American patients, where Bennett again provided opportunities for black physicians to work in psychiatry specialties. Bennett Hospital became Huntington City Hospital. Through the depression the hospital served the city’s poor, black and white, but closed in 1936.