Looking back: SMH celebrates 50 years in area

Published 9:28 am Friday, June 14, 2013

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

June 14, 2013

This “Looking Back” column, over the past several editions, chronicled the conception and advancement of Southampton Memorial Hospital and its predecessor, Raiford Memorial Hospital, all the way back to 1919, when Dr. Rufus Raiford started his medical practice and was using his Sedley home as his medical office and clinic.

In our last column, we reported on the completion and dedication of the new Southampton Memorial Hospital, fifty years ago. Governor Albertis Harrison and Lt. Governor Mills Godwin were here to dedicate the new hospital and help the community celebrate.

In today’s “Looking Back” column, for the first time, we are “stepping” out of the past and into the present. Instead of reporting on the celebration and dedication of the hospital’s completion 50 years ago, we are reporting on its 50th anniversary celebration. That celebration took place on Wednesday. And, what a celebration it was.

Tony Clark, Associate Publisher of The Tidewater News, was the master of ceremonies for the event which was held in very hot weather. Thankfully, the ceremonies were held under a very large tent.

On hand for the event were Franklin City Manager Randy Martin, and Chairman of the Board of Supervisors for Southampton County Dallas Jones.

Phil Wright, Southampton Memorial Hospital CEO, and Kim Marks, Assistant CEO at Southampton were there, of course, to welcome the crowd on behalf of their employees.

Rick Morris of the Virginia House of Delegates also attended.

Dr. Robert G. Edwards, who now has the distinction of being the longest practicing physician at Southampton Memorial Hospital, was there and spoke about some of the history since Southampton came into being.

When Southampton was dedicated 50 years ago, Edwards was in residency at Norfolk General Hospital. However, he had a close affiliation with Southampton through his working with Dr. J. W. Lambdin in his spare time. On July 1, 1965, Edwards returned to Franklin and became affiliated, officially, with Dr. J. W. Lambdin’s internal medicine practice.

Dr. Edwards spoke of his keen interest in setting up an intensive care unit at Southampton. “During the latter part of 1965, I was authorized to set up one of the four-bed wards, on second floor east, and turn it into a temporary ICU unit with monitors,” he said.

Later, also in the mid-60s, Dr. Edwards was instrumental in establishing a permanent coronary care unit, with eight fully equipped beds, and was named director of it. For all practical purposes, he, during that period of time, was functioning as a cardiologist.

On Wednesday, during his remarks, Dr. Edwards paid tribute to Sol Rawls, Jr. “He gave extraordinarily of us his time, energy and resources to make sure that Southampton and Franklin would have first-class medical facilities,” Edwards said.

Recognition was given to the three surviving Southampton Memorial Hospital Board members: Sol Rawls, Jr., Phillip Frankfort and Hunter Darden, Jr. who were actually appointed in 1959, along with 26 other community leaders, when the hospital was incorporated for the purposes of fund-raising and long-range planning. And, Rawls was elected to the position of Board Chairman and President.

Previously, in the early 1950s, Rawls was elected to the Board, and became President of Raiford Memorial Hospital. He was, concurrently, serving as President of both hospitals.

Many people in attendance on Wednesday recalled the dedication ceremony 50 years ago. “I was only 12 years old at the time”, one lady said. “But I remember it well.” Other people spoke about their experiences as patients both in the old Raiford Memorial Hospital and the new Southampton Memorial Hospital.

Many of the conversations had as much to do with the old Raiford Memorial Hospital as they did with Southampton. Speaking of Raiford, one man said “I was born there.” Others were heard to say “Dr. Hirsch removed my tonsils there.”

Dr. Hirsch also performed many surgeries at Southampton.

Jean Barker, a long-time nurse at the hospital, talked about her many years there. She spoke, fondly, about working with various doctors over the years, many long deceased.

Jesse W. Reel, Jr., whose father was the former Administrator at Raiford Memorial Hospital and the first administrator at Southampton Memorial Hospital, came from Raleigh to attend Wednesday’s ceremony.

Phil Wright introduced Ed Patnesky, former CEO at Southampton Memorial Hospital.

References were also made to the fact that Southampton Memorial Hospital, in the year 2000, became affiliated with Community Health Systems.

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.