|Black Patients and Knoxville Hospitals|
from the Beck Center Chronicle Twenty-second Anniversary Issue, published July, 1997. No copyright infringement is intended by transcribing this information here.
The city's first hospital was established in 1883. It consisted of four rented rooms on the second floor of a building at the corner of Depot and Broadway. It could accommodate 20 people.
In 1884, the city purchased the Robert Strong Building at the corner of State and Cumberland and established the first city-owned hospital there. Although it served both black and white citizens, it was too small.
In 1894, a group of black women, dissatisfied with the lack of space for black patients, attempted to raise money to build another hospital. Their effort failed, but Dr. Wallace Derrick, the city's only black physician at that time, built three cottage-type hospitals in various parts of the city to accommodate black patients.
In 1902, the city built the Knoxville General Hospital, which accepted blacks in a basement ward. Dr. Derrick solicited money from the black community to help build the facility. He reported that blacks contributed $700 and that Cal Johnson had personally contributed one hundred dollars. Since the hospital offered beds to only 12 or 15 patients, it, too, was woefully inadequate for black citizens. It also did not allow black doctors and nurses to practice there.
In 1907, the Knoxville College Hospital opened with six private rooms and two wards. It accepted both black and white physicians and had a nurse training program. It closed in 1926.
In 1926, a group of black physicians formed the East Tennessee Hospital Association with plans to raise funds and build a new hospital. Headed by Dr. S. M. Clark, Sr., the group had raised $12,000 by August, 1929, and took an option on a piece of land on Exeter Avenue.
The group appealed to the Julius Rosenwald Fund for aid, but learned that the fund could not contribute to a private hospital -- but would grant funds to a city hospital. Dr. Clark's group decided to pursue a project at Knoxville General. The Rosenwald Fund donated $75,000; the city, $75,000; the county, $30,000; and the Association, $12,000 to build the Negro Unit at Knoxville General. It opened September 17, 1933, with 82 beds. Black physicians were still not allowed to practice there until a court order of November 8, 1940.
When the University of Tennessee Hospital opened in 1956, it had only 60 beds for blacks. It was not until August 1, 1963, that all four major hospitals in the city admitted black patients on an equal basis.