Integration and a New University Hospital

Segregation and discrimination have cast a shadow over the United States throughout much of its history. While the doctrine of “separate but equal” was more formalized in the South, it was nevertheless practiced throughout the United States.

The Lamar and Barrett nursing schools of University Hospital (established for African-American and white students, respectively) were examples of segregated education.

Hospital director Whitelaw “Whit” Hunt was immensely popular with his staff.

Despite Nursing Director Alice Stewart’s gradual efforts to integrate the two groups of nurses, the doctrine of segregation was still very much the law of the land in the 1950s. Whitelaw “Whit” Hunt, who took over as University Hospital’s director in 1953, presided over the hospital during an era that required a modernization of its policies on race as well as its physical facilities.

In 1960, the fire marshal reported that the hospital was not up to code, and after a $5 million bond issue was narrowly approved in September 1962, planning got under way for a new University Hospital to be completed with support from a federal Hill-Burton grant, which prohibited racial discrimination. (The Hill-Burton Act initially allowed for segregation. Simkins v. Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital (1963) struck down this provision.)

On April 16, 1971, the new University Hospital was formally dedicated, with a speech by then-Governor Jimmy Carter. The 10-story, 696-bed, glass and metal facility included new coronary care and intensive care units, as well as a mental health wing.

While its physical presence dwarfed the obsolete and segregated facility that stood behind it, this symbol of progress in downtown Augusta soon became yet another starting point for the coming era of ambitious expansion of health care access across the CSRA.

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