Looking Back: SMH nearing completion

Published 10:01 am Friday, March 22, 2013

EDITOR’S NOTE: Looking Back features past articles from The Tidewater News with commentary by local historian Clyde Parker.

by Clyde Parker

MARCH 22, 1963

Southampton Memorial Hospital is almost a reality. It will be completed in just a few weeks. Present plans are for the first patients to be admitted in late May.

As completion and occupancy of the new hospital draws nearer, organizers are reflecting back in time. The March 8 edition of The Tidewater News chronicled the various stages of advancement toward a new hospital from the 1940’s (when Southampton Memorial Hospital’s predecessor, Raiford Hospital, was in operation) up to the mid 1950’s when proponents of a new hospital, were getting more serious and aggressive about the matter.

Now, we continue the chronology. In early 1957, Sol Rawls, Jr. engaged the services of Charles Caldwell, Jr., CEO of Medical College of Virginia Hospitals, as a consultant. One of Caldwell’s recommendations was to build a new hospital, give it a new name and locate it away from downtown Franklin.

In December of 1957, a certificate of incorporation was issued to Southampton Memorial Hospital Corporation.

A location for the new hospital was needed. Soon, in response, Rena Camp Rawls, with her husband Sol Waite Rawls, came forth and donated 25 acres on the lower part of their Hillview Farm. The donated land is on the northwest corner of Fairview Drive and North High Street, extended. Hillview Farm, which was formed from a portion of the original George Camp farm, stretches from Sedley Road to North High Street, Extended.

In 1959, in response to the need for a stepped-up fund raising campaign, a campaign committee was formed under the leadership of Sol Rawls, Jr., general chairman. Roger Drake was named general solicitations chairman. Cecil Vaughan III headed up the advanced gifts campaign, while Joe King, Jr. ran the employee gifts program. Joe Pope, Jr. operated the County campaign.

Also in 1959, a board of directors was established. The following people were appointed: Ira Barham, Capron; Floyd Briggs, Franklin; James Camp, Jr., Franklin; John Camp Jr., Franklin; Beale Carter, Newsoms; L. A. Clements, Courtland; Clifford Cutchins III, Franklin; William H. Cutchin, Franklin; Hunter Darden, Jr., Franklin; R. N. Darden, Jr., Newsoms; W. R. Emmons, Boykins; J. J. Flaherty, Franklin; Phillip Frankfort, Franklin; J. H. Holland, Franklin; Owen Johnson, Drewryville; Dr. J. W. Lambdin, Franklin; Winder Lane, Franklin; D. L. Molner, Franklin; G. H. Parker, Franklin; G. E. Pillow, Franklin; F. E. Pope, Drewryville; J. W. Pope, Jr., Boykins; Mrs. Robert C. Ray, Franklin; S. W. Rawls, Jr., Franklin; Jesse Reel, Franklin, J. P. Simmons, Sebrell; Will Story, Capron; Mrs. H. J. Hubbard, Sedley; and Dr. Kurt Hirsch, Franklin.

During their first meeting, the directors elected Rawls to the position of Board Chairman and President. F. E. Pope of Drewryville and Winder Lane of Franklin were elected vice presidents.

The estimated total cost of the new hospital and its equipment was $2.5 million.

In early 1959, Federal and State funding through provisions of the Hill-Burton Act, a program to help establish and upgrade hospitals, was identified and applied for.

Just prior to the start of the community fund-raising campaign, confirmation of Hill-Burton funding at a rate of 55 percent of the contracted cost was received. “This was a huge shot in the arm,” Rawls said.

The community campaign extended through most of 1959 and into 1960. During a meeting of the fund raising committee on April 4, 1960, at the Stonewall Hotel, the committee gave their final report. The total was $1,454,943 against a goal of $1.2 million. A resounding success!

Included in the total were substantial contributions from local industry. Also included in the total was $45,000 from Southampton County and $60,000 from the Town of Franklin. The Franklin contribution included $15,000 in cash and $45,000 worth of water and sewer construction up to the hospital site and into the hospital building.

In addition, many generous individual pledges and sizeable contributions from the Camp Foundation were included in the total. And, employees of Union Bag-Camp Paper Corp. pledged and contributed through payroll deductions.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Rawls, extremely pleased with the fund- raising report, said “The extra money raised will make it possible to obtain the best in equipment for the new hospital and will provide a cushion in case of unexpected expenses.”

NOTE: Chronology of the advancement and completion of Southampton Memorial Hospital and references to Raiford’s history will be continued in the “Looking Back” column on April 5, 2013.

CLYDE PARKER is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is cpjeep99@yahoo.com.