Jackson’s Forgotten Dentist

By Stephen D. Bowling

Richard H. Collins published his History of Kentucky, with many biographies of important Kentuckians, including several from Breathitt County. In his attempt to profile the most influential residents of the state, Collins discovered several citizens whose accomplishments and careers were simply amazing. 

Many of these individuals held strong influences over this county and now seem as though they have been completely forgotten.  Hopefully, through Collins’ work, these important men might live on in our history.  One of the local profiles was of Jackson Dentist Edward L. Gambill.

Dr. Edward Little Gambill

“Edward L. Gambill, doctor of Dental Surgery, enjoys an extensive professional practice in the community in which he was born and reared, Jackson, Breathitt County, Kentucky.

He was born on a farm near Jackson and is a son of William Esquire and Catherine (Little) Gambill.  Both the Gambill and Little families have been identified with Eastern Kentucky for generations.  His paternal grandfather was William Gambill who married Elizabeth Alexander of North Carolina, his native state.  They left there when quite young, and settled in Eastern Kentucky when this section was largely an unsettled wilderness.

His maternal grandparents were John and Jennie (Strong) Little, who were born and reared in Breathitt County.  His father, William E. Gambill, was a Union soldier in the Civil War, and was a member of the Fourteenth Kentucky State Guards, better known as the “Three Forks Battalion.”  His life has been spent as a farmer near Jackson where he and his wife now live, he being sixty-six years of age and she being seventy-three.  He is a member of the Masonic Order of Jackson, Kentucky, and is a republican, always having taken a leading part in the politics of Breathitt County.

The youngest of six children, Edward L. Gambill, while a boy attended the public schools, later Lee’s Collegiate Institute at Jackson, Berea College, at Berea, and Eastern Kentucky State Normal School at Richmond.  He taught in a public school for three years.  In 1910, he passed a civil service examination at Lexington, Kentucky, and was appointed to a position in the Department of Commerce, Washington, District of Columbia.  Later he held a position in the Bureau of Rolls and Library State Department. 

After leaving the government service he graduated from the Dental Department of Georgetown University, Washington, District of Columbia, in June 1914.  He passed the District of Columbia Board of Dental Examiners and also passed the Kentucky State Board of Examiners the same year and soon began his professional work at Jackson where he has built up one of the largest dental practices in Eastern Kentucky.  He is a member of the Kentucky State Dental Association and keeps in touch with the latest progress in dental technique and science.

On July 15, 1918, he entered the United States Military service and was located at Camp Meade, Maryland, where he served till the armistice was signed.  While there he contracted influenza and spent several weeks in the hospital.  He was discharged from the army on December 21, 1918.  He is now holding an appointment in the United States Veterans Bureau as a dental examiner in this locality, rendering treatment to ex-servicemen who are beneficiaries of war risk insurance.

The emblem of the Order of Knights of Pythias, who teach Friendship, Charity, and Benevolence.

He is a member of the local Order of Knights of Pythias, being chancellor commander, and Psi Omega Dental Fraternity, Junior Order United American Mechanics and the Masonic Order.  He is one of the directors of the Hargis Commercial Bank and Trust Company and a member of the Brethren Church.”

He left Jackson and moved his family to Bourbon County. After years of work as a dental surgeon in Central Kentucky, he retired to his home in Paris. His failing health required a later moved to Lexington, where he lived on South Mill Street. He and his wife were active members of the early organization that fought to save and restore the old homes and buildings in his neighborhood. The man known as “the Pioneer of Periodontia” died on April 24, 1972, at the age of 89.

Although his name is not widely known in Breathitt County today, Edward Little Gambill remains a strong reminder of the success and accomplishment that an education can present to those who are willing to work. From a simple cabin at Copeland to the hall of many of the most respected dental schools in the nation, Dr. E. L. Gambill rose because of his dedication to lifelong learning and his core belief that there are no barriers that hard work cannot overcome.

The Gambill Family plot in the Lexington Cemetery.- Source

© 2022 Stephen D. Bowling


About sdbowling

Director of the Breathitt County Public Library and Heritage Center in Jackson, Kentucky.
This entry was posted in Breathitt County, Education, Health, Medicine and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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