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John R. Brinkley

John R.  Brinkley

"Goat gland doctor," radio pioneer. 1885-1942

John R. Brinkley became nationally known as the "goat gland doctor" for his controversial medical practice that promised virility for his male patients. He was a pioneer in radio broadcasting and advertising, as he promoted his services to his large listening audience.

John Romulus (later changed to Richard) Brinkley was born July 8, 1885, in Beta, North Carolina, the only son of country physician John Richard Brinkley and his wife, Candace. An orphan by the age of 10, he was reared by an aunt and had a rather haphazard elementary school education.

After a nomadic life as a railroad telegrapher he attended Eclectic Medical College in Kansas City, Kansas, but never graduated. He was however, able to practice in Arkansas with an undergraduate license and managed to acquire several fraudulent (or questionable) diplomas.

Making use of the reciprocal agreements between states Brinkley settled in Milford, Kansas in 1916. There he began to transplant the gonads of goats into his aging customers with the promise of masculine virility. He was soon attracting national attention with his "goat gland" transplant surgery. For several years, the practice was very successful financially and Brinkley built a clinic, as well as a powerful radio transmitter.

He was able to build and operate one of the first radio stations in Kansas, KFKB (Kansas' First, Kansas' Best). Interspersed with the entertainment programs were ads for Brinkley's secret remedies. Brinkley reached a nationwide audience with his radio programs and he began diagnosing the nation's illnesses over the airwaves. In 1923 he was linked to a "diploma mill" and it was finally discovered that he had no formal medical training. Despite these revelations, Brinkley maintained a loyal following.

John R. Brinkley at a political rallyWhen opposition from the organized medical community resulted in revocation of his radio and medical license he turned to politics. Conducting a vigorous write in campaign for governor of Kansas in 1930, Brinkley garnered nearly 30 percent of the vote. After two subsequent unsuccessful campaigns for the office, he shifted his headquarters of operation to Del Rio, Texas, and built what would become radio station XERA in Villa Acuna, Coahaila. He shifted his speciality from gland implants to the prostate gland.

During his last years Brinkley was sued for malpractice, indicted for mail fraud by the federal government, and forced to declare bankruptcy in 1941. After three heart attacks and the amputation of a leg, Brinkley died May 26, 1942 in San Antonio, Texas.

William Allen White Foundation documentary: Excerpt on John Brinkley from William Allen White: What's the Matter with Kansas

Entry: Brinkley, John R.

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: June 2003

Date Modified: October 2023

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.