William Yoakley was born at Guerneyville, one of four children of Abraham and Mary Yoakley. His father died when William was only six years old. William successfully completed school at Mt. Pleasant and then went on to study at Wilmington College. After two years at college he left to teach at Gist Settlement in Highland County.
Three years later, he returned to Wilmington College and in 1902 he became the first African American graduate of the college.
For six years Yoakley taught at Midland School and in 1909 he became the first African American to earn a lifetime teaching certificate from the State of Ohio. Also in 1909 he took the Civil Service Examination and earned an assignment as special agent of the Census Bureau, first in Cincinnati then in Washington, D. C. While in Washington he began his study of medicine at Howard University taking evening classes, then becoming a full time student and graduating in June of 1915.
In 1916, just over 40 years of age, Dr. Yoakley began a new career in medicine and went on to become a much-respected physician in the community. In 1929, The Daily-Journal reported:
“During the World War he was one of the medical examiners on the draft board. He made an enviable reputation during the influenza epidemic in 1918. He is now and has been for several years one of the city physicians for the indigent poor. Three fourths of Dr. Yoakley’s patients are white and he finds some of the wealthiest and most respected residents of the county among his patients.”
Dr. William B. Yoakley died on July 9, 1938 at his home on Sugartree Street, Wilmington. He was survived by his wife, Ida Mae Frazier Yoakley. His funeral notice reported that:
“The services were in charge of Rev. W. S. T. Jordan and talks were made by Rev A. Ward Applegate, Mayor C. Q. Hildebrant and Dr. Frank A. Peelle. Miss Anna Barbara Babb presided at the organ.”
Dr. William Yoakley is buried in Sugar Grove Cemetery.