Written by Dr. William T. Griffin, DDS
Here’s a bit of dental trivia: Check out the following individuals—some of whom should be familiar to you—whose impact on our society has gone beyond their ability to combat dental disease:
Billy Cannon: An All-American football player from Louisiana State University and the 1959 Heisman Trophy Winner. He was the first overall draft pick of the NFL in 1960, but chose to play for the new American Football League, and his presence did much to earn the new league the credibility that eventually led to a merger with the NFL. His dental career began after he retired from pro football in 1969.
Doc Holliday: An American gambler, gunfighter, dentist and a good friend of Wyatt Earp. He received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery in 1872, at the age of 20—at that time one had to be at least 21 to practice dentistry, so the school held his degree until he made it to 21.
Charlie Norwood: An American politician and dentist, serving as a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from 1995 until his death in 2007. His dental practice was in Augusta, Georgia. He also spent several years providing dentistry in the Army, during which time he was awarded the Combat Medical Badge and two Bronze Stars.
Edgar Buchanan: An American actor with a long career in both film and television, whose most famous role was as Uncle Joe Carson from the 1960s television sitcoms, Petticoat Junction, Green Acres and The Beverly Hillbillies.
Bill Osmanski: An American football player and coach, inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1973. His pro career was spent with the Chicago Bears, where he helped lead them to championships in 1940, 1941, 1943 and 1946. In the midst of his career with the Bears, Osmanski spent two years serving with the Marines in World War II. While playing for the Bears, he also attended Northwestern School of Dentistry, eventually opening a practice in Chicago.
Zane Grey: An American author, best known for his popular adventure novels and stories about the Wild West. His best-selling book was Riders of the Purple Sage. After earning his dental degree, Grey established a practice in New York City in 1896, writing in the evenings, until eventually his writing career won out.
Jim Lonborg: A former major league baseball pitcher, who enjoyed great success as a member of the Boston Red Sox. During the 1967 season, Jim led American League pitchers in wins, games started and strikeouts, winning the Cy Young award for his accomplishments. After retirement from baseball, he received his dental degree from Tufts University and practiced from 1983 to 2017.
Thomas Welch: A British-American minister and dentist. He pioneered the use of pasteurization as a means of preventing the fermentation of grape juice. His motivation? To provide non-alcoholic “wine” for use in Holy Communion. Originally called “Dr. Welch’s Unfermented Wine,” it now goes by the name of “Welch’s Grape Juice.”
So the next time you see your family dentist, ask what he or she has been up to. Perhaps some day your dentist will be featured in an article like this!