From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Holmes, John Henry Sr.

(born: December 31, 1865  -  died: December 2, 1929) Dr. John Henry Holmes, Sr. was a medical doctor in Winchester, KY, when he became the first African American named to the Winchester Pension Board in 1897. The Honorable John W. Langly had appointed Dr. Holmes to the pension board in response to the requests of African Americans in Winchester to have representation on the board. 

Before he came to Winchester, Dr. Holmes had first come to Louisville, KY in 1892. He was a native of Richmond, VA. In Kentucky, he was a doctor in the Louisville colored hospitals for a couple of years, then Dr. Holmes and his family moved to Winchester, KY, where Dr. Holmes opened a private medical practice. He is mentioned in an 1894 newspaper article when he and Dr. Shirley (also African American) amputated a man's arm in Dr. Holmes' medical office. Dr. Holmes was an 1890 graduate of the Howard University Medical College

Dr. Holmes was also active in the Winchester community and a participating member of state and national organizations. He was a member of the Kentucky League of Colored Republicans and served on the organization's Committee of Credentials in 1897. He was a member of the National Association of Colored Physicians, Dentists, and Pharmacists. At the national meeting held in Lexington, KY, in 1904, Dr. Holmes made an address to the organization on behalf of his fellow members of the Kentucky Medical Association of Colored Physicians, Dentists, and Pharmacists. The Kentucky oganization meetings were sometimes held at Dr. Holmes' home in Winchester. Within the church, Dr. Holmes was a founding member of the Winchester B.Y.P.U. (Baptist Young People's Union) in 1904, and served as the topic leader and query master.

In 1908, Dr. Holmes delivered the emancipation address at the proclamation celebration held at the Broadway Baptist Church on New Year's Day. In 1909, he was an unsuccessful candidate from the 4th Ward for City Council. Eight African American men had established themselves as candidates from the 4th Ward in an attempt to have the first African American elected to the City Council. Four years later, in 1913, Rev. Horace Donia Colerane, Sr. was named the city's first African American City Councilman.

Dr. J. H. Holmes continued his work as an activist for the welfare and rights of the Colored people in Winchester, KY. In 1912, he suffered a blow to the head when he and the Winchester City Attorney, F. H. Haggard, had a disagreement. In spite of the injury, Dr. Holmes continued his political work as a member of the Clark County Republican Committee. His name and his various activities and contributions were very frequently mentioned in both the "Colored Notes" and other sections of Kentucky newspapers.

Dr. John Henry Holmes, Sr. had been in poor health when he suddenly died in 1929 while attending to a patient in Winchester, KY. His funeral was held at Broadway Baptist Church and he is buried in the Daniel Grove Cemetery, both in Winchester. He was the husband of Perzealia E. Robinson Holmes, and the son of Maria Sepin and Rev. James Henry Holmes.

SOURCES: "Dr. Holmes wins: A Colored doctor on the pension board at Winchester," The Sunday Leader, 07/11/1897, p.3; "After him," The Kentucky Leader, 05/05/1894, front page; "Colored Republican League: Two hundred delegates in attendance at the meeting in Lexington," 10/09/1897, p.2; "Colored doctors," Lexington Leader, 10/12/1904, p.5; "State B. Y. P. U. work," American Baptist, 10/21/1904, front page; "Colored Column," The Winchester News, 12/26/1908, p.3; "Colored Column," The Winchester News, 02/27/1909, p.3; "Winchester official and reporter fight," Lexington Herald, 05/20/1912, front page; "Negro physician dies," The Lexington Leader, 12/03/1929, p.2; and the J. H. Holmes Kentucky death certificate in Ancestry, file no.30961, registered no.269.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Clark County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Jefferson County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Winchester, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Louisville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

Item Relations

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Entry: Colerane, Horace Donia, Sr.
NKAA Source: The Daily leader (newspaper)
NKAA Source: The Kentucky leader (newspaper)
NKAA Source: American Baptist (newspaper)
NKAA Source: Lexington leader (newspaper)
NKAA Source: The Lexington herald (newspaper)

Related Entries Citing this Entry


Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Holmes, John Henry Sr.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed June 16, 2024,

Last modified: 2021-07-17 16:29:11