Seeing the portrait of his mother, Lillie, on the Legacy Wall at Bon Secours Sarah Garland Jones Center brings great joy to Dr. Richard Bennett. His mother, Dr. Lillie Bennett, is one of twenty-one doctors recognized for her contribution to the founding of Bon Secours Richmond Community Hospital.
Bennett became a doctor because of his mother’s work at the hospital and in the community. “I’m incredibly proud of my mom. She’s my hero,” says Bennett, who serves as the chief medical officer of Bon Secours Richmond Community Hospital. “I grew up admiring her. I believe a physician is healing mind, body, and soul. I saw mom helping the community navigate life’s situations and challenges while dispensing good medical care.”
Established in 1907, Bon Secours Richmond Community Hospital has a long history of serving the African American community. “It’s one of the first hospitals in Virginia that allowed African Americans to practice,” Bennett says.
Dr. Sarah Garland Jones, the first woman to pass the examination by the Virginia Board of Medicine, is credited with pioneering the early vision for Richmond Community Hospital and bringing together the group of twenty-one individuals who are recognized with portraits on the Legacy Wall.
“We wouldn’t be able to do our work today if it hadn’t been for their leadership and courage years ago,” says Mark M. Gordon, CEO of Bon Secours Richmond Community Hospital. “Twenty-one physicians used their own money. It was their own personal investment they were putting on the line. What they did should not be kept a secret. It was a monumental act on their part.”
The Legacy Wall was created through a partnership between Bon Secours Richmond Health System, Art 180, and artist Hamilton Glass. Glass held an 8-week painting workshop last year with ten alumni of Art 180 to paint the murals.
“I designed the murals and the kids painted them,” he says. “It was an awesome project. It brings another awareness to how that hospital came to be.”
The murals don’t just add beauty to the wall. They “bring education,” Glass says.
“It’s creative place-making, doing something creative that will bring more attention to the area and the location.”
Gordon says the outdoor art is eye-catching and impressive. He adds. “The wall grabs your attention. Hamilton’s art captures the emotion and depth of each individual.”
The physicians illustrated in the portraits are: Walton Belle, Lillie Bennett, Elwood Boone, Lewis Boone, Theodore R. Coots Brown, James Campbell, Wesley Carter , Harry Crawford, Halstead Howell, John Howlett, Reginald Jackson, Bernice Grant Latham , Wiley J Latham III, Frank Royal , Harry Royal, Lindley Smith, Valvin Sutton , William Thornton, Joyce Whitaker, Everett White, and Charles Sutton.
1. Walton Belle: General Surgeon Dr. Walton Belle received his undergraduate degree from Virginia Union University before enlisting in the U.S. Army in the early 1950s. He returned to attend Meharry Medical College, where he completed his medical degree and General Surgery training. Dr. Belle served as both Chief of Staff and Chief of Surgery at Richmond Community Hospital. He contributed funds to cover the initial operating budget of the new hospital building within the Church Hill district. Once construction was complete, Dr. Belle’s knowledge of PubliHealth Services was instrumental in setting up the new facility.
2. Lillie Bennett: Pediatrics Dr. Lillie Bennett is a native Richmonder and leading Pediatrician in Richmond. She completed her undergraduate degree at Virginia Union University and her medical degree at Meharry Medical College. She finished her residency in Pediatrics at Harlem Hospital. She was part of the medical staff at Richmond Community Hospital when a new, more advanced, facility was being proposed. Although the plans did not include an Obstetrics or Pediatrics ward, Dr. Bennett’s belief in supporting the community and its Black physicians was so strong, she contributed funds to make this facility a reality.
3. Elwood Boone: Urology Dr. Elwood Boone completed his undergraduate degree at Colgate University and, with his brother Lewis, attended Meharry College of Medicine, where he graduated with his medical degree. Moving to the Medical College of Virginia (MCV), Dr. Boone trained in both Urology and Surgery. Dr. Boone was part of the medical staff at Richmond Community Hospital when construction of a new facility in the Church Hill district was being discussed. He supported that decision, citing the need for an updated facility where Black physicians could practice first-class medicine, work with their colleagues on a daily basis, and stand as a source of pride for the community.
4. Lewis Boone: Ob-Gyn Dr. Lewis Boone earned his medical degree, along with his brother Elwood, from Meharry College of Medicine. He then went to the Medical College of Virginia (MCV), where he specialized in Obstetrics and Gynecology. He later joined the staff at Richmond Community Hospital. Though plans for the new hospital facility did not include an Obstetrics ward, a Gynecology department was proposed to take care of local women’s needs. Dr. Boone financial contribution to the new building helped cover a shortage in its initial operating budget.
5. Theodore R. Coots Brown: Family Practice Dr. Theodore Coots Brown earned his undergraduate degree at Virginia Union University and later moved to Howard University’s College of Medicine to complete his medical degree. Dr. Brown donated not only his expertise, but financial resources towards the construction of the new hospital facility, ensuring its continuing legacy within the community.
6. James Campbell: Radiologist Originally from Guyama, South America, Dr. James Campbell moved to the United States to complete his undergraduate degree at Oakwood University in Huntsville, AL. He received his medical degree at Howard University’s College of Medicine. He continued his medical training at Nassau County Medical Center. Both Dr. Campbell and his wife, Dr. Joyce Whitaker, contributed funds to support the new building project, thereby ensuring its continuing presence within the community.
7. Wesley Carter: Psychiatry Dr. Wesley Carter was born at Richmond Community Hospital. He earned his undergraduate degree at Virginia Union University and his medical degree at the Medical College of Virginia (MCV). While practicing in Richmond, he joined the Richmond Medical Society, serving as its president for four years. Dr. Carter was enthusiastic about the plan to build a new facility for Richmond Community Hospital and provided a portion of the support needed to keep the project alive.
8. Harry Crawford: General Surgery Dr. Harry Crawford earned his undergraduate degree from Virginia Union University before attending Meharry Medical School and Howard University’s School of Medicine, training as a General Surgeon. Being such an ardent advocate of the community, Dr. Crawford contributed funds to help cover the shortage in the initial operating budget helping make Richmond Community Hospital’s new Church Hill facility a reality.
9. Halstead Howell: General Surgery Dr. Halstead Howell earned his undergraduate degree at Oakwood University and received his medical degree from Howard University’s College of Medicine. He joined the staff at Richmond Community Hospital and served on many committees in Bon Secours Richmond Health System. Until his retirement, Dr. Howell taught as a Clinical Associate Professor of Surgery at Virginia Commonwealth University (formerly MCV). He pledged his financial support to assist with the initial operating costs for the new facility in Church Hill.
10. John Howlette: Optometry Dr. John Howlette received his undergraduate degree at Virginia Union University and studied for his medical degree at Howard University’s College of Medicine. He completed his training with a residency in Optometry from the Illinois College of Optometry. Dr. Howlette was the first African-American optometrist in Richmond, establishing his practice in the Jackson Ward district in 1952.
11. Reginald Jackson: Radiologist Dr. Reginald Jackson’s family has a long history in Richmond’s medical community; his father, Dr. Isaiah Jackson, was one of the original founders of Richmond Community Hospital; and his son, Dr. Richard Jackson, is part of the current medical staff. Dr. Reginald Jackson received his medical degree from Howard University’s College of Medicine and specialized in Radiology at Homer G. Philips Hospital. He later became Chief of the Radiology department at Richmond Community Hospital. Dr. Reginald Jakcson is recognized as one of the leading proponents of the proposal to construct a new facility for Richmond Community Hospital at its current Church Hill location.
12 – 13. Wiley and Bernice Latham: Gastroenterology and Family Practice Drs. Wiley and Bernice Latham met while studying for their medical degree at Meharry Medical College. They interned at the Medical College of Virginia (MCV), where he studied Internal Medicine and she focused on Family Practice. They completed their residencies at Howard University’s College of Medicine, where Wiley finished his fellowship in Gastroenterology. Dr. Wiley Latham became the first African-American gastroenterologist practicing in Richmond. Both doctors were part of the medical staff at Richmond Community Hospital when they learned of the proposal for a new hospital. They contributed funds when the project’s initial operating budget came up short.
14. Frank Royal: Family Practitioner Dr. Frank Royal trained as a Family Practitioner at Meharry Medical College. An eloquent speaker, Dr. Royal convinced the members of the Hospital Corporation of American (HCA) that a new facility was needed in Richmond’s East End. Even after the completion of Richmond Community Hospital’s new building, Dr. Royal partnered with Dr. Walton Belle to create an ICU department for the facility. He also encouraged the hospital’s eventual partnership with the Bon Secours Health System in 1995.
15. Harry Royal: Ob-Gyn Dr. Harry Royal entered Meharry Medical College two years before his twin brother, Frank. Dr. Royal also attended Temple University to specialize in Obstetrics and Gynecology. He was a member of the medical staff at Richmond Community Hospital when the new hospital facility in the Church Hill district was proposed. Dr. Royal contributed funds to help cover the initial operating costs for the new facility.
16. Lindley Smith: Ophthalmology Dr. Lindley Smith received his undergraduate degree from Long Island University. He attended Meharry Medical College and graduated with his medical degree. He later trained in Ophthalmology at Letterman Army Medical Center. Dr. Smith remembers moving to Richmond at a time when there were no Black Ophthalmologists practicing in the city and felt that the Black community needed a representative in that discipline. He respects Richmond Community Hospital for its age, its history, and its tradition of caring for those less fortunate, and felt honored to carry on the legacy of that institution.
17. Charles Sutton: Family Practice Dr. Charles Sutton received his undergraduate degree from Virginia Union University and earned his medical degree at Howard University’s College of Medicine; his internship and residency were spent at the District of Columbia General Hospital, where Dr. Sutton specialized in Family Practice. He served on the medical staff of many hospitals within the area, including Richmond Community Hospital. Dr. Sutton believed in the importance of having medical institutions owned and controlled by the community, as this would assure the highest standards of health care for Black patients. When informed that the original bank loan would not cover the initial operating costs of the new building for Richmond Community Hospital, Dr. Sutton guaranteed to cover any outstanding gaps within the budget.
18. Valvin Sutton: Internal Medicine Dr. Valvin Sutton received his undergraduate degree from Virginia Union University and completed his medical degree at Howard University’s College of Medicine. He remained at Howard to finish his residency in Internal Medicine. Dr. Valvin Sutton established his practice within the same office building as his uncle, Dr. Charles Sutton and became a member of the medical staff at Richmond Community Hospital. He said his motivation for supporting the new building project for Richmond Community Hospital was to follow his uncle’s lead. He understood the necessity of having community-owned institutions to assure the highest standards of medical healthcare within the Black community.
19. William Thornton: Podiatry Dr. William Thornton received his undergraduate degree from Virginia Union University and completed his medical degree and residency at the Ohio College of Podiatry. He was co-chair of the Legislative Committee of the Richmond Medical Society, as well as president of the Podiatry Society of Virginia. He contributed funds to Richmond Community Hospital’s new building project because he believed the community would be strengthened by having an outstanding hospital facility supported by a professional medical staff.
20. Joyce Whitaker: Pediatrics Dr. Joyce Whitaker earned her undergraduate degree from Virginia Union University and received her medical degree from Howard University’s College of Medicine. Dr. Whitaker completed her internship and residency at the Nassau County Medical Center. Both Drs. Whitaker and her husband, Dr. James Campbell were part of the medical staff at Richmond Community Hospital when the proposed new building’s budget fell short. Dr. Whitaker felt motivated to support the project financially in part because she had been born, reared, and educated within the Church Hill district.
21. Everett White: Family Practitioner Dr. Everett White received his undergraduate degree from Virginia Union University and completed his medical degree at Howard University’s College of Medicine. Dr. White opened a private practice in Richmond, specializing in Family Practice. His commitment to the community endured throughout his career; he served as President of the Richmond Medical Society, Secretary of the medical staff of Richmond Community Hospital, and as member of both the Richmond Tuberculosis Association and the Richmond Infantile Paralysis Association. Dr. White contributed funds to help cover the outstanding balance of funds needed for the creation of Richmond Community Hospital’s new facility.