Grand Rapids Woman Remembered For Whooping Cough Vaccine During Black History Month
Loney Clinton Gordon was a chemist from Grand Rapids who helped develop a vaccine that saved countless numbers of lives all over the world.
Gordon was born in Arkansas in 1915 but moved to Grand Rapids early in her life and would call Michigan home until her death in 1999. According to an article by Michigan Radio, "She went to South High School, and was just a few years younger than Gerald Ford. They both appear in the school’s yearbook in 1931."
She later attended Michigan State College (which is now known as Michigan State University) and received her bachelors degree in home economics and chemistry in 1939. And after she received her degree, she worked for a brief time in Virginia but returned to Michigan to work for the Michigan Department of Health.
While working for the Michigan Department of Health, she worked at the Western Michigan Laboratories, which later became known as the Kent Community Hospital. She spent her time in the labs as part of a team trying to develop a vaccine for pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough. Her job was to test thousands culture plates and try to find enough of the pertussis virus to work with to find a vaccine.
Before a pertussis vaccine was found, thousands of children would die each year from pertussis and tens of thousands more would become ill with the virus.
After World War II, Gordon traveled to Europe and the Middle East with the National Council of Christians and Jews. She would later return to Grand Rapids and work for the Michigan Department of Health from 1956 until she retired in 1978.
Happy Black History Month!