This Caribbean Immigrant Had One Of The Most Upscale Black Hotels In The United States

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now
Caribbean immigrant John Alexander Somerville. (UCLA image)

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 went on to open 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 the USC School of Dentistry in 1907.

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

In addition to developing other properties in the Los Angeles area, throughout the years both he and his wife, Vada Watson, were 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 on the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, served on the Police Commission from 1949 to 1953.  In 1953 he was named Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II. He passed away at 91 on Nov. 12, 1984.