Dr. Henry "Hank" Philmon (1958)

Dr. Henry “Hank” Philmon was one of the first African-American student-athletes at Iowa State University, excelling in football and track and field.

Dr. Philmon was born near Little Rock, Arkansas in 1933. After a few years, his family relocated to Chicago and then moved to Davenport, Iowa, when he was 10 years old.

He entered Davenport High School in 1952 and was its first African-American varsity wrestler.

His path to veterinary medicine began early in life with a love of animals. According to an article that appeared on the ISU Cyclones website several years ago, Dr. Philmon briefly considered going to the University of Iowa when he was considered for the UI wrestling team. But Dr. Philmon didn’t see himself in human medicine, so he applied to Iowa State for the veterinary medicine program.

After receiving his veterinary degree in 1958, Dr. Philmon served in the US Army Veterinary Corps, where he attained the rank of captain. After serving in the US Army, he returned to Davenport where he was a general practitioner. In 1968, he was elected to the Davenport School Board, becoming the first African-American to be elected to the board. 

Dr. Philmon later moved to Minnesota where he practiced for nearly five decades. During his years as a practitioner, he established a Mobile Animal Surgical Hospital (MASH), delivering in-home veterinary care to area pet owners.

In an 2005 article about Dr. Philmon, the Quad-City Times newspaper interviewed one of his former veterinary colleagues who described Dr. Philmon “as a gifted, yet modest veterinarian who had a knack for getting along with everybody. He is an old-world gentleman who has phenomenal rapport with our staff and the people we see.”

His professional interests included surgery, geriatrics, exotics, dentistry and laser applications.

Dr. Philmon was passionate about tennis, competing on the national level in mixed doubles.

He finished his collegiate sports career with six letters in football and track. Later he was inducted into the ISU Letterwinners Hall of Fame.

Credit: Flying Cloud Animal Hospital, Minnesota