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Our Physician Friend

Plum Thickets & Field DaisiesPart V

IN THE NEXT BLOCK from our home lived a physician who was an important person in our early family life. During our father’s lifetime, Dr. George Williams was our family physician, and he remained so after my father’s death.
I remember our beloved friend as a large, good-looking man with an olive complexion and black curly hair. He had a jolly, infectious laugh. It was a big hearty laugh that called to you and let you know that he was near.
There were only a few cars in town, and he rode in on an old-fashioned, four-wheeled buggy that was pulled by Daughter, an old sorrel-colored horse that seemed to know his every click. Whenever we heard the rattle of buggy wheels and Daughter’s familiar hoof beats, nothing could hold us back. We would rush to the front porch to yell, Hell-o! Our friend’s hand would go up, and he would yell back to us a loud similar greeting, Hell-o! But he made his answer in a prolonged, extended fashion that made it seem to die out gradually. We loved this.
This man was mother’s doctor when my youngest brother Johnny was born, and Johnny was always very precious to him. Seldom did he fail to stop by and bring him and us something--usually peanuts. I can see him now, feet planted apart on the walkway and one hand reaching in his pocket for peanuts. Scrambling heights! he would call, and up went a handful of peanuts to come down in a splattering shower. His actions always resulted in a mad scramble of children as each tried to get the most peanuts off the ground or the porch.
Our physician friend was a great teaser. Whenever he spied one of us coming down the street, hew would drive Daughter towards us on the sidewalk as if she were going to run over us. We would duck, yell, and try to get out of the way as if we were really scared of Daughter.
I remember vividly many Sundays when my mother would dress us and let us go to visit him and his family. They would always have some tidbit for us to enjoy. I remember especially the good homemade ice cream.
He was a helpful, staunch friend of my mother and her family. After the death of my father, I remember Mother saying that he never again sent her a bill for our treatment. This helped us financially because a teacher’s salary was only $35 to $45 a month. When our friend died suddenly, we were heartbroken. He was a real old-fashioned family doctor who healed our bodies and tried to bring a bit of joy and comfort into our young lives. His sympathetic nature seemed to sense the valiant struggle that Mother was making in order to rear six young children alone. He made each visit to our home an attempt to help her with her load by giving us free medical service.
One particular incident that took place in our mother’s life endeared Dr. Williams to us forever. Our mother once became suddenly ill with a violent pain in her abdomen. Nothing she did alleviated the pain and she continued to get worse.
We were all disturbed and bewildered form the first time that our mother appeared to be very sick. She had always had good health, and we were accustomed to having her take full command of her family each day. We watched her and hovered around her with anxiety not knowing what to do. Finally, our older sister sent for Dr. Williams.
He lost no time in coming to our home. He made his diagnosis and decided not to send her to the hospital for an operation to remedy what must have been inflammation of her appendix or some portion of her intestines. Perhaps his decision to treat her at home was influenced by the fact that she was our only parent, and the existence of our family life depended on her.
Dr. Williams sensed the seriousness of her case and earnestly went to work. Several times during the day, he ordered that minute doses of salt be given to her, and on each visit he pressed and massaged her side. I do not remember the other medications he gave her; but I do remember the constant bedside attention he gave our mother and the sustaining gay spirit of hope he brought to a depressed, fatherless group of children. He always had our eternal gratitude and affection for his part in restoring Mother back to health.
It was a remarkable coincidence that years afterwards, another wonderful physician came to live in the same house in which Dr. Williams had lived. He was Dr. Edson E. Blackmon. Dr. Blackmon had many of the same characteristics of our other devoted physician friend. We often remarked how similar these two men were in disposition.
Dr. Blackmon was not born in this country but was a naturalized American who took his citizenship seriously. He served his adopted country with pride and vigor. No one could say the pledge more fervently or sing the Star Spangled Banner with more patriotism. When it was his task to formulate a program, he would see to it that our flag was honored in some way or our national anthem sung. He was militant and fought for his rights and the rights of others, but he never seemed to harbor injustices or slights. He was a man who was proud of his country, and he tried to serve and enjoy every facet of America.
Dr. Blackmon had come to this country from one of the West Indies islands. He often spoke of his early childhood which had been a happy one but one loaded with responsibilities for a boy so young. His parents died, and an aunt took over the care of him and other members of the family.
He became an efficient typist by his own efforts. This accomplishment enabled him to make the first leg of his journey to America by way of Panama where he worked for the bishop of the Episcopal church. Throughout his life, he was grateful and appreciative of the opportunity that the Episcopal church gave him and his struggle to get an education. He succeeded in his work in Panama, but as soon as the opportunity arose to come to America, he seized upon it and came to St. Augustine’s School in Raleigh, North Carolina. I remember hearing him say that after reaching the school he attended church services. His finances were so diminished that he had only $1.00 left. When the collection plate was passed, he placed his $1.00 in the plate. This deed was a remarkable act of faith which he demonstrated over and over throughout his life.
At the college, his earnestness and great zeal for the work of God and the church quickly endeared him to the authorities. He continued to strive until he had finished the course at St. Augustine and moved to enter professional school at Meharry Medical College.
Securing a medical degree was a very difficult task because he had no one to depend upon for much financial aid. In spite of that, he persevered and graduated with distinction at the end of his course. After a few years of intern work, he came to Charlotte and finally lived in the house on Boundary Street in which our other family physician had lived. He thoroughly enjoyed his home life.
He made his home a place of joy for his family and gave a gracious welcome to all who came to partake of his hospitality. The rich, the poor, the neglected, the favored and the ill-favored came to him with their problems and found someone who tried to help solve their troubles. He was truly dedicated to the task of being a physician. Night after night he would spend hours at the Good Samaritan Hospital, often working long hours and overtime on charity cases for which he probably never received pay.
Seldom did a young unknown physician come to Charlotte to begin his practice without Dr. Blackmon extending to him the hand of fellowship. He practically exhausted his physical resources to serve others, whether in the work of the church, the practice of medicine or many other activities by which he aided his fellow man.
My mother first made his acquaintance when he was a young man. She seemed to love him and accept him as a friend and physician. He was these things to her and to the entire family as long as he lived. When my mother died, he came to our home about three o’clock in the morning and remained until day had come.
This man had a brilliant mind and a heart full of love and understanding for his family and his fellow man. He possessed, to a large degree, the essence of many good qualities that made him a dedicated physician and a loyal follower of Christ. He was an unusual person.