Matthew Oliver Ricketts MD (1858-1917)
Ricketts was born to enslaved parents in Henry County, Kentucky in 1858. His parents moved to Booneville, Missouri when he was a child, and he completed school there. In 1876 he received a degree from the Lincoln Institute in Jefferson City, Missouri, and moved to Omaha, Nebraska in 1880. Ricketts was admitted to the Omaha Medical College and worked as a janitor to pay his tuition. In March 1884 he graduated with honors, and soon after opened an office in Omaha. Ricketts quickly earned a reputation for “being a very careful physician, as well as an exceedingly likable young man.”A charismatic and controversial speaker, Ricketts quickly became the acknowledged leader of Omaha’s African American community. After being elected in 1892, Rickets served the Nebraska Legislature twice as a Republican in whole-county elections, from 1893 to 1897. He was the first African American to serve in the Nebraska Legislature. Dr. Ricketts was regarded as one of the best orators there, and was frequently called upon for his opinions. He is credited for creating Omaha’s Negro Fire Department Company, and for securing appointments for blacks in city and state government positions. Ricketts was elected Worshipful Master of Omaha Excelsior Lodge No. 110 of the Prince Hall Masons. Ricketts addressed the 1906 Grand Convocation of the Freemasons in Kansas City, Missouri. Ricketts was married to Alice Nelson in 1884; they had three children. After leaving the Legislature Ricketts was an unsuccessful candidate for a federal position, largely because his appointment was opposed by a Nebraska congressman. Ricketts subsequently moved to St. Joseph, Missouri to continue his medical career in 1903. He died in St. Joseph, Missouri in 1917, at the age of 64.