Dr. Welton was a self-made Renaissance man and visionary optometric leader. He was born on February 11, 1911, in Nicodemus, Kansas. He received his high school education in Zanesville, Ohio, where he graduated from Lash High School. After receiving his BS and MS degrees from Tennessee State University, he applied to The Ohio State University School of Optometry and, in 1938, was the first African American graduate in optometry. He was also the first African American optometrist to become a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry. After his graduation, he left Ohio to begin a private practice in Atlanta, Georgia. Eight years later, he returned to the Buckeye state to establish a practice in Cleveland. According to the BuckEYE alumni newsletter from August 1994, “He made house calls and put back together eyeglass frames that had been long targeted for the trash. He made good use of everything. Nothing was to go to waste, not a frame, not even a greeting card.” In 1967, Dr. Welton became supervisor of the Eye Clinic in the Hough-Norwood Family Health Care Center in Cleveland and served in that capacity for 22 years.
Dr. Welton was a leader and a pioneer in all of his endeavors, and he strived to pave the way for all who were to follow in his footsteps. He always stressed the value of obtaining an education, and he and his beloved wife, Maxine, established scholarships at both The Ohio State University College of Optometry and Tennessee State University to further minority pride and education. The interest from his $100,000 endowment to Ohio State in 1989 goes to the assistance of minority students who want to become optometrists.
Dr. Jacqueline Davis (OD’81, MPH) was inspired by Dr. Welton during her years as a student, “I will say that he was a true inspiration to me when I was in school. I did not meet him until after my graduation, but there were many days during my optometric training that I stood under the stairs in the basement of Fry Hall, looking at his graduation picture, saying to myself ‘If he could do this in 1938, then I can do it too!’”
Dr. Kefla George (OD/MS’01), one of the recipients of a Welton scholarship, said, “Not only did this scholarship enable me to come to Ohio State, but it made me more aware of the college’s efforts to recruit more minority students to a career in optometry and the need for adequate eye care in underprivileged communities.”
Dr. Welton died on July 20, 1994, but his memory and generosity live on at The Ohio State University College of Optometry.