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Chiropractic history and African American history have something in common: Harvey Lillard

1/24/2012 (Archived)

The history of chiropractic and African American history are tied together by the first chiropractic patient: Harvey Lillard. Mr. Lillard, an African American entrepreneur, was the owner of the janitorial company that cleaned the Ryan Building in downtown Davenport, where D.D. Palmer had his magnetic healing practice. In 1895, D.D. Palmer learned that Harvey Lillard had been nearly deaf for some time, ever since an incident where he was bent over in a cramped, stooped position and felt something “pop” in his back, as D.D. recounted later. When he stood up, he told D.D., he realized he had lost his hearing. From Mr. Lillard’s own account, he had tried various remedies from medical doctors of the time with no success.

D.D. Palmer deduced that the two events—the popping in Harvey Lillard’s back and the deafness—must be related. He convinced Mr. Lillard to allow him to conduct an examination. During the examination, D.D. discovered that one of Harvey Lillard’s vertebrae was not in its normal position. “I reasoned that if that vertebra was replaced, the man’s hearing should be restored,” he wrote in his notes afterwards. “With this object in view, a half hour’s talk persuaded Mr. Lillard to allow me to replace it. I racked it into position by using the spinous process as a lever, and soon the man could hear as before.”

Thus the profession of chiropractic was born. Palmer College of Chiropractic celebrates “Founder’s Day” each year on September 18, the day that D.D. Palmer is said to have performed that very first adjustment. On September 18, in February during African American History Month and throughout the year we remember Harvey Lillard—the very first chiropractic patient—whose hearing was restored with one history-changing adjustment.

Harvey Lillard 

Harvey Lillard, 1906

For more information on African Americans in chiropractic, check out the following articles:



For more information about African American history, go to: http://www.biography.com/tv/classroom/black-history-timeline