Eudora “Dodo” Proctor (September 29, 1917 - 1993) was an entertainer, member of the USO, a cosmetologist, and established the Eudora National S.L. E. Organization which was dedicated to providing support and care to those suffering from lupus.
Proctor was the daughter of Clyde Proctor and Ellen Proctor (née Payne). Clyde traveled frequently as a musician and baseball player. Ellen eventually moved in 1920 with Eudora and the rest of the family to Fresno, California to live with Ellen's father, William Payne.
In 1924 Eudora was moved into the Fannie Wall Children’s Home and Day Nursery in Oakland, California. After learning to dance from Bill Robinson’s radio programs, she began working at The Barbary Coast night club in San Francisco at age 12.
Proctor was cast in a role in the Golden Gate International Exposition’s production of The Swing Mikado in 1939. Proctor and three other members of the production, Milton Lovett, Harry Villa, and Eloise Clay, formed their own song and dance group Lovett, Villa, and the Rhythm Queens. During the early 1940s, the group toured around the U.S. and Canada performing shows in night clubs with notable performers including Count Basie, Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, and Nat King Cole. In the early 1940s at the suggestion of Fats Waller, the group changed its name to The Four Kit Kats, and Proctor was promoting herself as the Queen of the Taps or the Queen of Rhythm.
With outbreak of World War II, Milton Lovett was drafted into the U.S. Army and Harry Villa joined the merchant marines forcing a hiatus of The Four Kit Kats. Proctor eventually joined USO Troop #339, one of only two African American USO troops during the war, and traveled to Liberia, Egypt, and the Middle East perform shows for African American soldiers. The troop consisted six members, Dave and Wittye Wiles as master of ceremonies and singers, Cora Green, singer, Dodo Proctor, dance, Chauncey Lee, guitarist, and Lillian Thomas, pianist.
Following the war, Proctor continued to work as a performer and dance instructor, and she also worked as various positions as a nurse’s aide, clothing designer, and a beautician, eventually opening her own beauty parlor, Eudora’s House of Beauty, in Oakland in the 1950's.
In the 1970s, she was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematous which forced her to retired as a cosmetologist and led her to start a non-profit organization, Eudora National S.L. E. Organization, dedicated to providing support and care to those suffering from lupus.
Her family papers are housed at the African American Museum & Library at Oakland; the collection includes unique items including several hundred photographs.
Links and References
- Eudora Proctor, dancer SFGate.com February 28, 2008