Medicine

White personnel make way for Dr. Ward and staff.

Wilson Daily Times, 13 March 1924.

In early 1924, Wilson native Dr. Joseph H. Ward, a major in the Army Medical Corps and a pioneering physician in Indianapolis, was appointed first African-American chief surgeon and medical director of a Veterans Administration hospital. The appointment was poorly received by many in Tuskegee, Alabama, and the displacement of former personnel by a nearly all-Black staff was initially stiffly resisted.

An appeal for aid.

Wilson Daily Times, 3 December 1930.

After struggling financially for many years, in 1930 the African-American hospital on East Green Street reopened as non-profit Mercy Hospital, the name by which it is best known, with support from the Duke Foundation and the Julius Rosenwald Foundation. Though Mercy did not admit white patients, it had an integrated Board of Trustees. Its president and vice-president were white, but William Hines, secretary/treasurer, retained his duties as chief hospital administrator.

Dr. Darden makes good.

Wilson Daily Times, 29 September 1936.

“Darden and Family at Pharmacy.” This unattributed photo is posted at “First Black Doctor in Opelika, AL,” Valle Vision News blog, 22 February 2018. Dr. Darden is at center, with his wife Maude Jean Logan Darden to the left, standing in front of his Opelika pharmacy. The man at far right may be J.B. Darden, a pharmacist who worked in his brother’s shop before settling in Virginia.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Usher in Juneteenth with Black Wide-Awake and Zella Palmer!

I find myself with an unexpected day off, so what better way to kick off the real holiday than chopping it up with Zella Palmer about family, Black history, and Wide-Awake Wilson?

Zella is chair and director of Dillard University’s Ray Charles Program in African-American Material Culture and renowned for her innovative work to preserve African-American food culture. Find out what she and I have in common — besides everything Black — this afternoon at 3:00 PM Eastern in our Instagram Live conversation @maisonzella!

Dedication of historical markers.

At last, the official dedications of four historical markers installed in Wilson in 2020-21.

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“Colored Citizens” published a note to mark the end of the second year of the Wilson Normal and Industrial Institute. Wilson Daily Times, 1 June 1920.

Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

Proud he was born in Wilson.

Dr. Joseph H. Ward, circa World War I. Photo credit unknown.

In September 1926, Dr. Joseph H. Ward sent a note of thanks to Daily Times editor John D. Gold for a complimentary article the paper had published a few weeks before. The New York World had picked up and reprinted the piece, which had caught Dr. Ward’s attention. 

Dr. Ward noted the “generosity and goodwill” of Wilson’s citizens and proclaimed that he was “proud to have been touched by the benign influence of the men who laid the foundation of the Wilson of today — the Messrs. Barnes, Woodards, Ruffins, Rountrees, Golds, Daniels, Conners, Davises, Vicks and Prices, and their illustrious compatriots.” 

By populating his roll call with surnames only, Dr. Ward was able to place on an equal footing the African-American men who had positively impacted his youth — Samuel H. Vick and Joseph C. Price (and possibly, Rev. Fred M. Davis.) Notably, he did not name the family of his biological father, Dr. David G.W. Ward.

Wilson Daily Times, 3 September 1926.

I have not been able to find the August 19 article.

Many thanks to J. Robert Boykin III for the clipping.

Snaps, no. 79: Dr. James A. Battle.

We met Dr. James A. Battle, born in Wilson in 1885 to Parker and Ella Battle, here. His granddaughter, Mae Castenell, recently shared several family photographs.

Dr. Battle and wife Della Plummer Battle. Della Battle’s sister was E. Courtney Plummer Fitts, who lived in Wilson.

The Battle house on West 4th Street in Greenville, North Carolina. The Battles and their young daughter Ella are seated in the lawn.

Dr. Battle, seated at left, with an unknown group of young African-American men.

Many thanks to Mae Castenell.