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Cleveland “Cleve” Francis Jr. M.A. ’69

Musician, Health System Diversity Advisor, Retired Cardiologist

Degree: {{,Master of Arts in Biology}}

When Cleveland “Cleve” Francis Jr. arrived by train in Williamsburg in 1967, guitar in hand, it was his first trip outside his home state of Louisiana. Cleve learned of an opportunity to pursue graduate studies in biology at William & Mary after a dozen medical schools turned him away. Attending W&M marked a turning point for him. His M.A. in biology opened the door to obtaining a degree in medicine and later establishing a successful cardiology practice. He also found, for the first time, an enthusiastic audience for his signature “soul-folk” blend of music. At the urging of faculty member Victor Liguori, Cleve recorded an album titled Follow Me in 1969.

While he was practicing medicine in the Washington, D.C., area, an encounter with a patient’s family sparked a series of events leading to a recording contract in Nashville, Tennessee. He took a sabbatical from medicine and by the early 1990s, he was appearing at the Grand Ole Opry and performing around the country and beyond.

After three years, Cleve left Nashville and returned to medical practice. Now, three decades later, the impact of his music is becoming more evident. In 2023, he was featured in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s American Currents exhibition. One of his country albums is on display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington. A new anthology of his work was released in 2022, and he was honored with the Black Opry Icon Award in 2021. 

Learn more about Cleve