By Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell, Special to The New Tri-State Defender
Saturday was a day of “firsts” and “new beginnings” for the Collins Chapel Connectional Hospital effort as the project’s board of directors honored 13 physicians and healthcare advocates in the first class of Collins Chapel Healthcare Legacy Awards.
Hundreds of CME officials and community supporters filled Germantown’s Great Hall for the first Collins Chapel Connectional Hospital Celebration Luncheon.
Much was made about the history and legacy of the first private hospital in Memphis to “treat Black people or provide a facility in which Black doctors and nurses could practice and train.”
Bishop Henry M. Williamson Sr., board chair of the hospital’s reconstruction, saw profundity and significance in this inaugural event set on the eve of Easter Sunday.
“So this is a great day for the community because of this day, before Resurrection Sunday, a great resurrection is occurring on Ayers Street. While we yet have work to do to realize a fully operational facility, this day signals an important step on the journey toward delivering quality healthcare in the Memphis community.”
Beverly Robertson, former president of the National Civil Rights Museum and current president and CEO of the Memphis Chamber of Commerce, delivered the afternoon’s keynote address. She rhetorically asked the significance of rebuilding a facility so important to African Americans in the days of segregation.
“Why should we be concerned about rebuilding a black hospital when black people can go to any hospital they want now? After 300 years of slavery, 90 years of Jim Crow, and 60 years of ‘separate but equal,’ Collins Chapel Connectional Hospital still means something,” Robertson said. “It was built by the Martin brothers, two physicians who owned a Negro Baseball team. They also built a stadium with the help of R.S. Lewis Sr.
“Oh, I’m going to give you a little bit of history. J.B. Martin was run out of town by Boss Crump. He moved to Chicago and became owner of three baseball teams.
“As African Americans, we must value our institutions. We don’t replace them with newer, more shiny, more appealing ones. When we take care of our institutions, they will take care of us. If we value our own institutions the way we should, they can withstand the test of time.”
Robertson set forth three directives for seeing the Collins Chapel CME Connectional Hospital come to fruition.
Refine the plan and flawlessly execute it.
Learn from the past to inform the future.
Have the right people in the right seat.
Thirteen recipients of the Healthcare Legacy Award were:
Charles A. Champion
Louis E. Cunningham
Greg Duckett, Esq.
Rickey N. Hudson
Derrick D. Payne
Gary Shorb – Lifetime Achievement
William Terrell Jr.