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The Gainsboro History Project

Claytor Memorial Clinic

Clinic Founding

The Claytor Memorial Clinic was opened in November of 1948 at 413 Gainsboro Road NW. Dr. John B. Claytor Sr., the building’s owner, dedicated the clinic to his late wife, Roberta Woodfin Claytor, who had always wanted her husband and children to be able to work in the same place. The building had space for Dr. Claytor and each of his sons: Dr. Frank W. Claytor and Dr. John B. Claytor Jr., both physicians; Dr. Walter S. Claytor, a dentist; and Ralph V. Claytor, an accountant who was the clinic’s business manager.

Community Oriented Business

The Claytor family was always willing to work with patients that could not afford to pay for the services they sought at the clinic. Often patients would be put on payment plans to lessen the financial blow. Additionally,  Dr. Walter Claytor was known to not overbook his day so that he could spend ample time with his patients, even if it cost the clinic income.

A woman getting dental work done with nurse Daisy Schley in the background looking at the camera
Dr. Walter S. Claytor and Nurse Daisy Schley. Courtesy of Roanoke Public Libraries
Dr. Frank W. Claytor, MD. Courtesy of Roanoke Public Libraries.

Urban Renewal and Arson

Urban renewal forced many of the Claytors’ patients away from Gainsboro and the clinic they grew up with. After the death of Dr. Frank W. Claytor and the relocation of Dr. John B. Claytor Jr. in 1972, Dr. Walter S. Claytor and Ralph V. Claytor operated the clinic until the latter’s death in October 1993. Dr. Walter S. Claytor retired in January 1994, and the clinic closed that year.

On May 20, 1995, arsonists set fire to the vacant clinic. The fire destroyed the interior of the building, including the medical records that were being kept there. The outer shell of the building still stands.

Eminent Domain and Court Case

The Claytor Memorial Clinic sits on a one-acre lot owned by the Claytor family that was held under threat of eminent domain by the Roanoke Development and Housing Authority for over 20 years. However, the authority never actually condemned the property, causing the fate of the property to be held in limbo. Dr. Walter Claytor filed a case against the housing authority in 2001 for back compensation on the property. In 2003, Roanoke Circuit Court ruled against Roanoke Development and Housing Authority, and a court appointed commission awarded the Claytor family back rent in 2005.

This was the first court case of its kind brought in the Commonwealth of Virginia and transformed eminent domain law in the state. The case subsequently allowed legislation to pass that put a five-year limit on condemnations.

See Also


Applegate, L. (1995, May 21.) Fire claims Gainsboro clinic. The Roanoke Times.

Bishop, M. (1995, May 22). Flames take piece of history. The Roanoke Times.

Chittum, M. (2005, November 17). A long time coming. The Roanoke Times.

Four brothers and their medical center. (1953, July 18). Afro-American, ProQuest.

Hartig, D. (n.d.). Dr. Walter Claytor: Roanoke’s misguided urban renewal. Retrieved, February 15, 2022 from

Woodbury, M. C., and Marsh, R. C. (1994). Virginia Kaleidoscope: The Claytor Family of Roanoke, and Some of its Kinships, From First Families of Virginia and their Former Slaves. Published by Margaret C. Woodbury and Ruth C. Marsh.