Calvin Herman Sinnette was born in New York City on August 30, 1924. His parents, Frances La Caille and Norman Joseph Sinnette, emigrated from Trinidad and settled in Harlem. Throughout his 96 years, Calvin had an abiding love for this thriving black city-within-a-city. He attended St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School and Stuyvesant High School.
During his teen years, he developed an interest in medicine by working with his uncle who was a physician. He developed a life-long appreciation for jazz by occasionally ditching school to hear bebop at Minton’s playhouse. Calvin attended City College, New York and went on to graduate from Howard Medical School in 1949. That same year, he married the love of his life, Elinor DesVerney, and returned to his beloved Harlem to do his internship and residency at Harlem Hospital.
By the end of a two-year stint in the Air Force in Germany, he was father to daughters Caleen and Darryle. He returned to the U.S. to establish his private pediatrics practice in Corona, Queens, New York from 1955-1965. During this time, he completed a fellowship at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine.
Calvin was a passionate golfer, and he and his physician friends integrated many golf courseson Long Island, New Jersey, and upstate New York and conducted extensive research on the history of the African American golf experience. Calvin was also an avid reader and “race man.” As the Civil Rights movement of the 60s gained steam, he got involved with Freedomways Magazine and dynamic cultural and political figures in New York City.
He gravitated towards students and physicians from newly independent African countries and in 1961, he received a grant from the Ford Foundation to complete a three-month assignment in Nigeria. The world of tropical medicine and the needs of newly independent African nations made him eager to return to the Motherland.
On February 21, 1965, Calvin was sitting in the Audubon Ballroom when Malcolm X was assassinated. Four months later, he packed up his family and moved to Ibadan, Nigeria to teach at the University College Hospital. After five years there, he and the family moved to Ahmadu Bello University in Northern Nigeria.
When he returned to the United States in 1970, he taught at Columbia University in New York City and returned, yet again, to Harlem Hospital. In 1976, he and his family moved to Kenya where he taught at the University of Nairobi Medical School. He returned to the United States to help open Morehouse College’s School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. He returned to his alma mater, Howard University, serving as Deputy to the Director of Health Affairs.
He retired from Howard University as Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics in 1991. Throughout his medical career, Calvin authored numerous journal articles related to pediatrics and tropical medicine. In retirement, Calvin completed Forbidden Fairways, his book on the history of blacks in golf. In 2011, Calvin was inducted into the National Black Golf Hall of Fame.
In his later years, Calvin researched and wrote on the life of Rudolph Fisher, Harlem Renaissance physician, writer, dramatist, and musician. He also enjoyed writing essays about his own youth.
With his wife, Elinor, Calvin travelled to over 25 countries. He was extraordinarily proud of his three grandsons, Robeson, DuBois, and Lucas. He is survived by them, his sister Norma, daughters Caleen and Darryle, sons-in law Carl and Jerome, as well as family members by marriage, Quinn and MaryHelen.
Due to Covid-19, a memorial service for Calvin and Elinor will be held at a later time. In lieu of flowers, please send a donation to www.WPFWFM.org. Click the “Donate Now” button, and pull up “Sunday Kind of Love”. In the “comments” section, you may specify that the donation honors Calvin Sinnette.