Remembering Two Local Radiology Pioneers

Headshots of Black radiology pioneers William Edward Allen Jr., MD, and Rose Pegues, RN.

Observed nationally since 1976, Black History Month celebrates the achievements of Black Americans and recognizes their central but often-overlooked role in U.S. history. Within the radiology field, there are numerous Black radiologists, technologists and imaging specialists who advanced medicine and opened doors for people from underrepresented groups.

This Black History Month, we remember two radiology pioneers — William E. Allen Jr., MD, and Rose Pegues-Perkins — who made a tremendous impact right here in St. Louis.

William E. Allen Jr., MD

William Edward Allen Jr., MD, (1903-1981) was a man of many firsts. His career highlights include:

• First Black certified X-ray technician
• First Black American College of Radiology member, fellow and Gold Medalist
• First Black American Board of Radiology diplomate
• National Medical Association radiology section founder and first chairman
• Created first minority radiology residency program
• One of the first African Americans to be published in major radiological journals

During World War II, Allen was the first Black officer from St. Louis to enlist in the U.S. Army and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He led X-ray services at Fort Huachuca’s military hospital, trained other Black medical officers in radiology and established the first and only African American Women’s Army Corps School for X-ray technologists.

Allen worked tirelessly to shape the profession and increase education access for the Black community. He completed his postgraduate training at Homer G. Phillips Hospital in St. Louis and later led its radiology department, where he established the School of Radiologic Technology’s residency program. After its first class graduated in 1948, the school’s enrollment grew rapidly. By the 1960s, the program graduated over 200 Black radio­graphers, nuclear medicine tech­nologists and radiation therapists. He also served as a professor at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Saint Louis University.

Allen dedicated his life to breaking barriers and empowering his community with knowledge and opportunities. His accomplishments were many and per a dedication written by former MIR Director Ronald G. Evens, MD, “It is unlikely that any single radiologist can take his place.”

Rose M. Pegues-Perkins

Rose M. Pegues-Perkins (1913–1992), was a registered nurse who became one of the first Black X-ray technicians.

In the 1930s, Allen served as the chief radiologist at St. Mary’s Infirmary, where he began organizing a radiology technologist school for Black students. Pegues enrolled in the program and trained under him. She, among others, advocated for herself to be allowed to take the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) exam. Despite resistance, she persevered and successfully passed her exam in 1936, becoming the first Black registrant of the ARRT. She spent the rest of her 41-year technologist career serving the St. Louis community.