The Tampa River Walk

Clara C. Frye

Clara C. Frye ( c. 1872-1936)

 

 
Prepared by the Historical Monument Trail Selection Committee,

Friends of the Riverwalk

For further information, contact Fred Hearns, fhearns@netzero.com
 
Clara C. Frye, the mullato daughter of Joseph Draughn, a southern African-American man, and Fannie Fordam, a teacher from London, England, was born April 17, 1872. Clara trained and gained nursing experience in Chicago, Illinois and Montgomery, Alabama before moving to Tampa in 1901. She married Sherman Frye, a Tampa barber, and they had two sons.
 
 In 1908, when a white physician, Dr. M.R. Winton, asked Frye to care for an ill black patient while he prepared to perform a surgical operation, she offered her modest, three-room house at 1615 Lamar Avenue in Tampa Heights. Her dining room table served as the operating table and her bedroom as the recovery room. Frye’s home continued to serve as a hospital for another fifteen years, and she never refused services for patients because of their inability to pay.
 
In 1923, using borrowed money, Frye purchased and renovated a two-story building on the same street, converted it into a larger hospital and named it the Clara Frye Hospital.
 
Because she would not press patients for payment, Frye found it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. In 1928, the city of Tampa purchased the hospital from Frye and took over its operations. She continued to work there until crippling arthritis and other health challenges forced her retirement. The hospital had been renamed the Tampa Negro Hospital.
 
Clara C. Frye died on April 8, 1936. She was 63 years old, and reportedly impoverished. She was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Tampa Heights. In 1937, with Works Progress Administration funds, a new, 62-bed hospital for blacks was built on Union Street at the Hillsborough River. Fittingly, the structure was dedicated as the Clara Frye Memorial Hospital. Today, the ninth Floor wing at Tampa General Hospital is named in her honor.