This Caribbean immigrant had one of the most upscale black hotels in the United States

West Indian immigrant John Alexander Somerville. (UCLA picture)
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Compiled by NAN Staff Writer

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri, June 25, 2022: He graduated from the University of Southern California School of Dentistry, becoming the first black graduate, but then opened one of the most upscale black hotels in the United States in 1928.

He was Caribbean immigrant John Alexander Somerville, who was born in Jamaica and immigrated to the United States around the 1900s. He was the first black graduate of USC School of Dentistry in 1907.

Dr. Somerville’s first major business venture, the Somerville Hotel, was a leading African-American business on Central Avenue in the heart of Los Angeles in the African-American community and had a number of African-American celebrities among its guests.

In addition to developing other properties in the Los Angeles area, over the years he and his wife, Vada Watson, have been active in community affairs and civil rights work.

In 1949, he published his autobiography, Man of Color, and in addition to being the second African American in the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, he served on the Police Commission from 1949 to 1953. In 1953, he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II. He died at age 91 on November 12, 1984.

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