The Dr. Clifford C. Smith Childcare and Learning Center is named in honor of the medical internist and family medicine practitioner who diagnosed and healed patients from the MFLMarMac and Prairie du Chien communities, and beyond for 42 years. For most of those years Dr. Smith conducted his private practice from his clinic which is currently the home of the Dr. Clifford C. Smith Childcare and Learning Center. Dr. Smith’s compassion, listening skills and habit of looking directly into the eyes of his patients and making them feel like they were his only patients endeared so many to him. Dr. Smith loved children, and it is estimated that over the course of his practice he delivered more than 1000 babies. Beloved by young and old alike, “Doc Smith” was regarded by many of his patients as not only their physician, but as their best friend and confidante. The staff at Smith & Bulldog Childcare & Learning Centers make every effort to keep Dr. Smith’s legacy alive by practicing compassion and modeling listening skills as they care for children and nurture their natural curiosity and desire to learn.
Dr. Smith was born July 30, 1925,the only son, and first of four children, to his parents Clifford Clay Smith and Lee Russell Smith in Waterloo, IA. He graduated from East High School, and completed one year of college before he entered the U. S. Army Air Corp. It is a little known fact, however, that Dr. Smith was a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen. He entered the Army in 1943 and initially drove a 2-1/2 ton truck called a “deuce and a half.” The young soldier learned that black men were being trained as pilots and submitted an application for flight school. More than a year had passed without having received word from the flight school, when Smith happened to find himself in the adjutant’s office where he knew the applications were filed. He found his application at the bottom of a pile and moved it to the top. Shortly afterward, he received notice of acceptance to flight school, and in 1945, joined the ranks of other African American cadets being trained to become World War II pilots. Although Smith’s favorite plane was the B-25 Mitchell bomber aircraft, he was assigned the Steerman biplane. In only three months Smith mastered the Steerman, and qualified to fly the AT-6 and multi-engine aircrafts. That achievement earned the young pilot his notoriety among the ranks as the “90-day wonder” in the class of ’46.
Dr. Smith returned to civilian life as a student at the University of Iowa. Following graduation, he attended Meharry Medical College in Nashville, interned in Binghamton, NY and became the first African American medical resident at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Iowa City. He began private practice with his mother-in-law, Dr. Laura B. Harris, in Jersey City, NJ, where he became the first African American emergency room director at the Jersey City Medical Center. Nearly five years later, the young doctor with his wife and two children moved from Jersey City to McGregor, Iowa. In 1998, Dr. Smith was named National Rural Health Practitioner of the Year. He was presented the University of Iowa Alumni Award in 2005.Dr. Smith chose this area to establish his practice at the McGregor Hospital. A year later, he moved his office to 626 Main Street in McGregor. His courage never wavered, even when his initial years were
lean. His practice flourished. When fire razed the modest two-story house that Dr. Smith converted into his first clinic, a new clinic was built in 1979 on adjacent property that, in the winter in 1967, he had transformed into a community ice-skating rink. Dr. Smith’s patients were devoted to him, not only because he was a gifted internist, but because of his great compassion. Dr. Smith would accept bartering in exchange for patient care when a patient could not afford to pay. He was known to accept items he didn’t necessarily need in order to allow the patient to feel satisfied about their debt.
For the first twenty-five years of his 41-year career in Iowa and Wisconsin, Dr. Smith practiced independently as an internal and family medicine physician. He also served for a number of years as the Medical Examiner for Clayton County Iowa. In 1987 Smith began his affiliation with Gundersen Lutheran of LaCrosse, and continued to serve the communities of Northeast Iowa and Southwest Wisconsin until his retirement in 2003. Dr. Smith was a member of Prairie du Chien Memorial Hospital’s active medical staff for 36 years serving on committees such as safety, credentials, utilization review, quality assurance, and as Chief of Staff. For several years following his retirement, Dr. Smith served as Medical Director of Prairie Maison Nursing Home in Prairie du Chien.