Jumping ahead a few years, to 1990, I recall Stephanie calling me to come to Radiology at University. She was there for a sonogram, with some unusual results. Expecting to see a new baby on the way, there were two little ones showing on the sonogram images. I came to Radiology to see our twins for the first time, knowing that our five kids at home might not be so impressed that there were now two more mouths to feed. It all worked out fine, and later we added another child to the mix to make it an even eight kids.
As the family grew, the job opportunities came along as well. Within five years, I was able to progress from interviewer to employment manager, and then assistant personnel director. University Hospital became my professional home, with so many wonderful employees serving the patients coming from surrounding communities.
Over time, a unique opportunity came about, as I realized that very little had been written about University Hospital history. Stephanie and I both had a passion for Augusta history, fueled by our mutual Augusta College student adviser and good friend, Dr. Edward J. Cashin. We were always ready to explore Augusta’s history mysteries, and University’s long legacy, going back to 1818, needed lots of attention. My history journey began with knocking on the door of the old Widows’ Homes on Greene Street in the Fall of 1980. (The Widows’ Home was opened after the Civil War as a home for Confederate Widows, and remained in service to indigent women and children for over 100 years)
There I was greeted by the home’s matron, who helped me confirm that Augusta’s medical community, including the first City Hospital and the medical college, had its origins at the 100 block of Greene Street, the site of the Widows’ Home. From there, the Widows’ Home board president, Mrs. Benjamin Lester, invited me to come to their annual Christmas Tea to talk about the history of the Widows’ Home. Mrs. Lester was active in civic affairs, and her husband had been the business manager at University in the 1940’s. She insisted that an official Georgia historical marker be placed in front of the Widows’ Home, as the site of Georgia’s first medical school. After completing some primary source research with Dr. Cashin’s guidance, I wrote the marker text, which was approved by the state with the current marker dedicated in a ceremony in October 1981.
Around this same time, my name was presented to the Richmond County Commission as a candidate for a seat on the Augusta-Richmond County Human Relations Commission (HRC). My hospital administrator, Ed Gillespie, approved the idea, thinking my growing personnel background would be a good fit in support of our local human rights agency. Through a vetting process, the HRC executive director got wind that I was a member of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization, which was true. Somehow, being a knight was conflated with another group of knights, meaning the KKK, and a news conference was called to reveal this juicy bit of information. Back at University, I was summoned to meet with Mr. Gillespie, who was tipped-off as to this potential catastrophe. I explained to Ed that I was never involved with the KKK and figured out the mistake had to do with the Knights of Columbus. The whole thing was ridiculous. Ed then had me meet with the hospital attorney.
Reporter Margaret Twiggs called me from the Augusta Chronicle, asking if would sue the executive director. The hospital attorney encouraged that I leave well enough alone, and I ended up serving for a couple of years on HRC. Margaret wrote several news stories anyway.
The post-script to this story involved cartoonist Clyde Wells doing a political cartoon piece in the Sunday Chronicle showing the executive director pointing his finger at hooded KKK members, saying “you Knights of Columbus people ought to be ashamed of yourselves!” I came through this mess relatively unscathed, although this experience cured me of any further interest in local politics.
More to come, including job growth and deciding to leave the University Hospital “nest” for Atlanta.
Have a Blessed Week!