Greene County, Arkansas
The Arkansas Tribune Oct. 13, 1989
Above on left is Dr. Jacob Williams , right is the Community Methodist Hospital
When a young doctor came to Paragould in 1947, he opened his first private practice . During his first year , the office girl made $ 65.00 a month which, the doctor said , was more than he did.
Until a year ago , Dr. Jacob Williams still practiced medicine in Paragould . However , last year marked an end to his long commitment to Northeast Arkansas.
Williams was the last of two doctors who transferred from the old Dickson Memorial Hospital to what is now known as Arkansas Methodist Hospital on West Kingshighway.
Even though Williams and his wife , the former Mary Lou bland , were from this area , Williams didn't know for sure that he would practice medicine here. When he graduated in 1942 from the University of Tennessee Medical School in Memphis , he went on to Knoxville General to do his internship.
"I remember we worked every other night from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. ", he recalled "We made $20.00 a month there."
He said he could remember in those days that doctors did everything . There weren't too many doctors who specialized . After a year's stint in Knoxville, he went to St. Joseph's Hospital in Memphis to complete his residency. he said he was paid a little better there , $100.00 a month.
During these years Williams also received medical experience in the United States Army.
When he finally came to Paragould in 1947 , he - along with 11 other doctors - rotated schedules at Dickson Memorial Hospital.
The hospital had 20 to 30 beds that usually had three to four patients in a room. Sometimes the hallways were also used. The hospital's elevator had a rope which had to pulled to be used.
"That's why so many people took the stairs." Williams said.
There was no air conditioning throughout the hospital , either. He said when surgery had to be performed it was scheduled in the afternoon or even in the fall.
"The nurses would have a pan of ice water there to dampen a cloth for our face, "he said .
When he transferred two years later to what was then called the Community Methodist Hospital , it had electric elevator but no air conditioning . However , the doctors got together later and put one in.
Williams said that while he was at Dickson Memorial , some days were pretty long. "Some times I'd work all day because of a flu outbreak and then make about 16 house calls after my shift, " he added.
Some doctors did not get paid that much back in the late '40s. He said back then a office call would be $ 2.00 , house calls $ 5.00 baby care and delivery $50.00 , setting a broken arm and care afterward $25.00 and some surgery around $125.00 .
"But you have to remember in those days $1.00 would by a sack of grocery's too. " he added.
Insurance was not around either in the late "40s." He stressed that doctors didn't have to worry about malpractice. "I guess back then we didn't have so many lawyers trying to make a living too. "
Williams said he always knew he wanted to be a doctor . His grandfather was a medical doctor and his father was a dentist . He said he remembered his dad telling him about having to get up early in the morning to harness his father's horses - something that made Williams' father decide he would rather be a dentist. However , Williams said he recalls seeing his father at his office looking into people mouths all day long , which was something he didn't want to do. So , he decided to be a medical doctor, like his grandfather.
Over the years he has delivered more than 2,000 babies. He delivered the first baby who was born on opening day of the Community Methodist Hosp. on Oct. 17, 1949 . Virgil Rodgers was the baby.
Rodgers today is a cookie distributor for Archway. He said he plans no big celebration for the big 4-0 . " In fact , he said he didn't want anyone to know he was having a birthday.
His three children were also born at what is now known as Arkansas Methodist Hospital .
Williams own daughter likes to tell people she was born in the city jail because after the hospital moved to its new location , the city jail was moved into the old Dickson Memorial Hospital on West Court the top was taken off.
He said that looking back over his long career , a lot of changes have taken place.
"Gone are the days when hand holding was the only cure, " he said .
Medical technology has grown tremendously over the years , and he added that there are still good doctors around and patients should get acquainted with them. Ask questions , he said , if you don't understand.
Williams said he still talks with some of his patients but most of his days are now spent taking care of things around the house, like mowing the yard.
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