Issue 8 // Summer 2018 // McKinley High School honors the Legacy
Dr. Leo S. Butler was the first male to receive a diploma from Baton Rouge Colored School, which became McKinley High School. Finishing from ,Howard University, Dr. Butler began a lifelong practice of medicine and community service and served as a mentor for other blacks who followed him into the profession. Known as the “Dean of Black Physicians,” he was honored for his services to Blundon Home, Southern University and to civil rights. His example ushered in the Outside, along this route crowds stood, cheered and cried, because going inside the oldest African-American high school in the activism and community service of doctors like Louis James who became the first black to serve in the Baton Rouge coroner’s office, or Donald Lee Harris noted for his kindness, generosity and down-to-earth demeanor.
As compassionate and able as these physicians were, they could not have survived without the partnership of nurses, and other medical support staff, many of whom McKinley counts among its graduates. This issue of the newsletter is a salute to some of the McKinley Healers and to those who worked along side and were inspired by them.
McKinley Graduates Salute Nurses
These words reflect the pain and sometimes humiliation that her profession experienced during segregation in Baton Rouge. Brought together in 2010 for a reunion by McKinley graduate, Joan Forbes, a group of these nurses describe working on the “Black Ward” a single section of a single floor of a local hospital, where all blacks were lumped together, regardless of medical need. While they were not all McKinley graduates, these professionals all endured unprofessional treatment for many years as they toiled in local hospitals. They spoke of only two bathrooms, one for men and one for women, with a single tub, sink and toilet in each; whites refusing to be treated by them; a segregated cafeteria where they were unwelcome. In 2010, when her mother turned 83, Forbes hosted a large party, inviting all the nurses she could find who had once worked at the General’s fourth-floor “black wing,” then known as 4-South. Many hadn’t seen each other in years. Her mother died in 2011, but Forbes kept pursuing her cause to persuade the General to honor the women who cared for patients-and each other-through the hard times of the Jim Crow era and beyond. These women were later honored not only by the Baton Rouge General Hospital but by the women of Baton Rouge at The Celebration of Women program on March 17th of this year.
Rev. Dale W. Flowers
Fellow Alumni, our alma mater has faced challenges in the past as we face them today. But just as they have not defeated us before, new trials do not affect our love for and devotion to our alma mater. Nor will I they diminish our faith in an institution that has given so much to the world. The Alumni Association has met with the new administration and students about the athletic program and has pledged its support, both morally, spiritually and financially. Just as many of the healers highlighted in this issue faced and overcame tremendous barriers to their success, we also face present difficulties with courage and promise born of a faith in the One who gives us strength and assurance.
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In this issue, you’ll find…