Some will remember the late Dr. Carl E. Yaeger Jr. as a civil rights leader who helped to integrate Miami hotels and restaurants, a philanthropist who provided scholarships to young people, and a capable physician who provided medical care to people from all walks of life, including Muhammad Ali.
Others will remember him as a devoted father, a caring friend, and a loving husband. Still others recall him as a musician, as he both sang and played the piano professionally, and hosted a music TV show in the mid-1950s.
Following a brief illness, Dr. Yaeger passed away on Thursday, July 15 at 87.
He will live on in the memories of those who know and love him in a variety of ways. His son, Ivan, recalls that his father “was very insistent on [his children] getting the best education, and would challenge us to be the best. My sister [Gail] remembers him deducting from her allowance based on grades and conduct… [and her allowance] only ever went down. Deductions and demerits,” he chuckled.
Dr. Yaeger began his life on Feb. 22, 1923 in Hartford, Connecticut. Born to physician Dr. Carl E. Yaeger Sr. and Ethel Wingo Yaeger, he was the older of two sons. After several moves, the family settled in Los Angeles, Ca. There, Yaeger graduated from Jefferson High School in 1943 with honors.
After a two-year tour of duty with the U.S. Army immediately after high school, and graduation from the University of Southern California, the Los Angeles College of Chiropractic, and the Central States College of Physiatrics. He began practicing medicine in Aiken, South Carolina before returning to Los Angeles.
Yaeger and his first wife, Doris, had three sons, Carl III, Eric and Neal.
In 1956, Yaeger and his father opened the Yaeger Clinic of Liberty City in Miami, after operating Yaeger Clinics on both coasts.
The Liberty City clinic provided minor surgery, and delivered over 400 children in its in-house maternity ward. The father and son team treated Muhammad Ali in the 1960s, and traveled to hurricane-damaged zones to treat disaster victims as well. In 1965, he married educator Ollie Sharpe. He, Ollie, and her daughter, Gail, welcomed son Ivan into their blended family in 1967.
Following his father’s death in 1971, Yaeger continued to practice at the clinic, remaining active there until 2005. In its over 50 years of existence, The Yaeger Clinic has served over 100,000 patients, many of them remaining loyal to the Liberty City landmark for generations.
The clinic is one of the nation’s oldest African American-owned health care companies. In 1995, Dr. Yaeger co-founded the Yaeger Foundation, Inc., through which he expanded his family’s support of local causes and charities. Dr. Yaeger was also actively planning the development of the Yaeger Plaza, a project that will take the place of the current Yaeger Clinic facility, and will feature a modern medical and educational center, a dream of Yaeger’s.
Dr. Yaeger was devoted to civil rights, and participated in several sit-ins and voter registration drives with leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was active in the integration of formerly segregated Miami hotels and restaurants, and was a loyal donor to both the NAACP and the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights organization.
Miami-Dade NAACP Vice President Brad Brown said of Yaeger, “He was a particularly strong supporter of our ACTSO [African American Technical and Scientific Olympics] program. I’d say that was the initiative closest to his heart. It seemed like he enjoyed encouraging young people to go into the sciences.”
Yaeger’s interest in education also carried over to his and his late wife Ollie’s support of Miami-Dade’s inner-city schools. He mentored and provided scholarships to aspiring health care professionals.
Yaeger was appointed chairman of the Florida Board of Naturopathic Medicine by former Florida governors Reubin Askew and Bob Graham, and was recognized by the 109th Congress with a Congressional Tribute in December of 2006.
In the midst of all of his work, Yaeger still found the time to pick his son, Ivan, up from school each day.
“No matter how my day was, he was there for me—to encourage me, congratulate me, anything,” Ivan said. “It was like nothing was more important to him during that time than to be there to do that.”
Ivan counts those times with his father as some of his favorite childhood memories.
Yaeger and his wife, Ollie were married for 36 years before her passing in 2001.
Yaeger leaves behind his four sons, Carl III, Eric, Ivan, and Neal, as well as his step-daughter, Gail Alexander, grandsons Steven (and Steven’s wife, Rebecca) and Khary, and his great-grandchildren, Keona, Khary Jr., Aaron and Jaylen.
His passing will be grieved by the many relatives, friends and patients whose lives he affected, including his companion, Jacqueline Sawyer, his nurse, Beverly Brundage and thousands of patients who were touched by his healing hands.
A viewing will take place this Friday, July 23 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Range Funeral Home, 5727 NW 17th Avenue in Miami.
The funeral will take place at 11 a.m. on Saturday, July 24 at the Historic Mt. Zion Baptist Church, 301 NW 9th St., of which he was a member.
Donations in lieu of flowers may be sent to The Yaeger Foundation, Inc.
Photo: Dr. Carl E. Yaeger Jr.