from Oakland Sunshine, December 18, 1920 1

Dr. William Whipper Purnell (January 25, 1869 – January 2, 1935) was a doctor and war veteran. Much of his career was in Washington, D.C., but later he and his wife settled in the East Bay.

Purnell was the great nephew of noted abolitionist and businessman William Whipper. Whipper's daughter had died as a child, and he and his wife raised his nephew, James Whipper Purnell, as their own son. James Whipper Purnell married Julia Shadd, and William Whipper Purnell was born January 25, 1869.

Purnell married Theodora Lee (Purnell) in 1895, the granddaughter of John Jones, a stationmaster on the Underground Railroad and one of the leading abolitionists in Chicago. They had one son, Lee Julian Purnell. Lee graduated from MIT in 1921 in only two years. He then joined the faculty at Howard University, where he became Dean of the Engineering department. 3

The exact years the Purnells were in the Bay Area isn't known, but c.1922-1928, they lived at 1600 Woolsey St. in Berkeley, and Dr. Purnell had an office at 1225 Washington St. in Oakland. 4 At the time of William's death in 1935 at an Army hospital in San Francisco, Theodora was still living at 1600 Woolsey.

Links and References

  1. photos Oakland Sunshine December 18, 1920
  2. Ex-D.C. Medic Dies in California Afro American January 19, 1935
  3. Lee J. Purnell on MIT Black History
  4. Polk-Husted 1924 directory
  5. Negro Trail Blazers of California by Delilah Beasley