Orangeburg has lost its longest-serving dentist with the death of Dr. Robert Calvin Gordon, 75, who practiced here for 45 years from 1973 until June 2017.
Gordon’s career was distinguished. He was a member of organizations including the Edisto Dental Study Club, South Carolina Dental Association, American Dental Association, National Dental Association, National College of Dentists and the Palmetto State Medical, Dental and Pharmaceutical Association.
He served his community and state as a member of the Claflin University Board of Visitors as well as the Medical University of South Carolina Board of Trustees.
He was the first African-American president of the Orangeburg chapter of the Kiwanis International, and a member of historic Trinity United Methodist Church, where he served for many years on the finance committee.
Gordon served his country, being commissioned into the U.S. Army as a first lieutenant in April 1969, practicing dentistry on active duty at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, until 1972. He served in the U.S. Army Reserve for 24 years as a dentist, retiring as a colonel in 1996.
In remembering Gordon and his longtime place in the Orangeburg, there is also need to note the role of his wife of 46 years, Catherine Matthews Gordon, who died in 2014.
Of Mrs. Gordon, Orangeburg community icon the late Geraldyne Zimmerman said in 2006 in nominating her for an Orangeburg County Community of Character honor: "She really is the Florence Nightingale of the community. She takes you to the doctor in town or out of town, she runs errands — she does so much for the community.
"If you are confined in the hospital, she visits you every day, checks on the family and offers her services. She will sit in the hospital or at home with the sick so that family members can do other things.
"Cathy will chauffeur you to meetings (in town or out of town). She always makes herself available to give senior citizens a helping hand."
In addition to serving people on a one-on-one basis, Mrs. Gordon was also a member of several organizations whose foundations rest on service to the community, including the Sunlight Club, the Orangeburg Chapter of LINKS Inc., the Cooperative Church Ministries of Orangeburg and the Girls Scouts of Carolina Low Country, serving in leadership roles for at least two of the groups.
She was also active in the auxiliary to the Palmetto Medical, Dental and Pharmaceutical Association and at her church, Holy Trinity Catholic.
The loss of Dr. and Mrs. Gordon in the short span of less than four years after their service to the community across more than four decades will long be felt in Orangeburg, where the memory of them as caring and involved people will be cherished.