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Title: Oral History Interview with Andrew Best, April 19, 1997. Interview R-0011. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Best, Andrew, interviewee
Interview conducted by Thomas, Karen Kruse
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 128 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
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Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-10-24, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Andrew Best, April 19, 1997. Interview R-0011. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series R. Special Research Projects. Southern Oral History Program Collection (R-0011)
Author: Karen Kruse Thomas
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Andrew Best, April 19, 1997. Interview R-0011. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series R. Special Research Projects. Southern Oral History Program Collection (R-0011)
Author: Andrew Best
Description: 252 Mb
Description: 23 p.
Note: Interview conducted on April 19, 1997, by Karen Kruse Thomas; recorded in Greenville, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Karen Kruse Thomas.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series R. Special Research Projects, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Interview with Andrew Best, April 19, 1997.
Interview R-0011. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Best, Andrew, interviewee


Interview Participants

    ANDREW BEST, interviewee
    KAREN KRUSE THOMAS, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
I'm interviewing Dr. Andrew Best about the Old North State Medical Society and health care desegregation in North Carolina. Dr. Best, could you just start with your educational background, when you were born, and when you stared your practice?
ANDREW BEST:
I was born and reared in Lenoir County, about three miles northeast of Kinston. I went to the neighborhood school, which was segregated, until I finished the seventh grade. There was no high school in the county at that time for black folk, Negroes as we were known then, and I'm sure you've noticed the difference in the nomenclature. It was colored, it was Negro, and then it was black, and now it's Afro-American. There was a high school for so-called colored in Kinston, and I went to high school there. Of course, the high school in Kinston accepted Afro-American students, but they had to be responsible for getting there, as opposed to the white kids in the consolidated schools in the county—they had buses. We black toddlers had to walk to school. It was about three and a half miles from my house to school. For those years I was in high school, my basic means of getting to school was walking. Sometimes there were neighbors who would recognize my sister and I walking to school, and they'd pick us up, or we'd hitch a ride. In the last two years, I had an older brother who had some trouble with his eyes, so he took a vacation from school after he finished the ninth grade. So when my older sister and I finished our ninth grade years, then there were three of us, and this older brother had a car, so he could transport us in our junior and senior years. At that time, the high school only went to eleventh grade. I graduated from high school in 1936. Being a country farmer's boy, and not having the facilities to go right on off to college, I was out of school for four years, and went back and enrolled in college in 1940 up at A & T College. In later years, we got into the university system. From there, I was drafted into the Army, and I entered the Army on April 30, 1943, after completing two quarters of my junior year at A & T. So I was pulled right out of college, as they did many other advanced ROTC students. So I went into the service, and went into the Officers Candidate School in the infantry at Ft. Benning, Georgia. From there, I was in the first wave of replacements to go to the 92nd Infantry Division, which was an all-black division at that time. The 92nd was engaged in the fighting in Italy in the European theater. We were on the Italian side of it, rather than with the French and English. I landed on Leghorn, Italy on my birthday in 1944. From there, I participated in the infantry battles up the boot of Italy toward Milan. I was wounded in action and got the Purple Heart with the cluster. For some reason or another, I received a Bronze Star during those engagements. Luckily, the war ended for us on June 8, 1945. We called it V-E Day, victory in Europe. There was a year I spent in Italy while we were cleaning up all those ammo depots and a lot of other administrative things, cleaning up the destruction and aftermath of the war. I returned to the States and went back to A & T in September of '46 and graduated in '47 with a BS degree in Agriculture. I had a minor in biological science, in chemistry, and in English. Doing all of that, I wanted to go to medical

Page 2
school, but wasn't sure that I would get an opportunity. My main course was following a degree in agriculture, but I took enough subjects to be qualified for medical school. Luckily, I was accepted to Meharry, and I entered Meharry in September of '47, and graduate in '51. I think it might be interesting to note at this point that there was no medical school at that time in the state of North Carolina that accepted black medical students. They had developed a kind of program that they would give some kind of medical assistance, and it was administered by North Carolina Central University in Durham [then the North Carolina College for Negroes], and I was a recipient of that out-of-state grant to help fund my medical education at Meharry. After finishing in 1951, I went to back into the army to Tacoma, Washington to do my internship, as we called it then. Now, the first year out of medical school is the residence. So I did my internship at Madigan Army Hospital, about 30 miles south of Seattle. I had a very uneventful training period there, then came back to Ft. Bragg. By going into the Army, I owed them some time, so I had to pay it back for having interned in their program. I was stationed at Ft. Bragg for the next couple of years, where I was on the staff at Womack Army Hospital, and was engaged in regular medical services and back-ups.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
What kind of training did you receive in your internship?
ANDREW BEST:
General practice, including obstetrics and gynecology. I had a rotation in anesthesiology, too. They let me out of the army a little early, in December 1953, and I came to Greenville to set up the practice of family medicine. Then in 1954, I got affiliated with the Old North State Medical Society as a formal organization. From my association with the Old North State, I was right in the eye of the storm of changes in health care delivery. We were fighting the problem of segregation, which was a real problem for us minority doctors. I happened to be there when the Medical Society of the State of North Carolina offered us scientific membership. Of course, Dr. Emery Rand, a family practitioner from Charlotte, and Dr. Joe Gordon, a radiologist from Winston-Salem, accepted the scientific membership, but the organization as a whole rejected it, because we could attend the scientific sessions, but none of the social sessions. We of the Old North State, the majority of us rejected that. I don't know what year they decided to offer us full membership, do you happen to know?
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
When I talked to Dr. Cochran last weekend, I don't believe it was until the late '60s.
ANDREW BEST:
It was some time. But after they offered us full membership, I joined the North Carolina Medical Society also. I was a member of both groups. In the late '60s and early '70s, when we started to accelerate our efforts for a medical school here in Greenville, I was on one of the reference committees. I was actively involved in the workings of the North Carolina Medical Society because I was one of the real members after that desegregation. There was a lot that I think I was able to help get accomplished in helping to get the medical school here [at East Carolina University]. I might mention in passing

Page 3
that when I got ready to go into practice, the hospital in Kinston was owned by a group of private doctors, who had not opened the staff of [unclear] Hospital. Of course, when they built a new structure, they named it Lenoir Memorial. In considering a place to practice, Pitt County Memorial Hospital had been built, and there were two minority doctors here in Greenville, and they had been accepted on the staff. Presumably because this hospital had been constructed with the help of Hill-Burton federal funds, with the implication that it would have to have an open staff. The two minority physicians in Greenville were members of the staff before I got here. One of these members, Dr. James Battle, had a heart attack and died, and Dr. Harold Kelly got drafted into the service. So that left the city open, as far as any minority physicians were concerned. When I came aboard on January 1, 1954, I applied for staff privileges at Pitt Memorial, and I was approved and got on the staff. There were some efforts to influence me to come to Kinston, but one of the great deciding factors between Greenville and Kinston was the hospital situation. Where the staff at Pitt Memorial was already open, because the group managing this hospital didn't feel like it had a good legal stance to keep minorities out in Greenville, the door wasn't open in Kinston. So that in itself largely decided where I would come to practice.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
Do you happen to know when the Pitt County Hospital was built?
ANDREW BEST:
After World War II, I don't know exactly. It was pretty new when I got there in '54.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
Lenoir Memorial, was it a county hospital?
ANDREW BEST:
It was a county hospital, but it was the successor to the old Parrot Hospital. I don't know exactly what year it was built.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
I wonder if Lenoir got any federal money to build their hospital?
ANDREW BEST:
It's only been in the last year that Lenoir has opened its doors to a minority physician. But I am told by Dr. John J. Hannibal, who was a minority physician in Kinston who just retired, that they invited him and my family physician, Dr. Harrison, to join. But they did not accept, because I understand that they wanted to limit their privileges, so neither Dr. Hannibal nor Dr. Harrison accepted any sort of invitation to become members of that staff. It's been only recently, in the past two years or so, that any minority physicians were members of the staff at Lenoir County.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
It's interesting that as early as '54, Pitt County was opening admitting rights to minority physicians, because a lot of hospitals, even those built with Hill-Burton funds, didn't. I wonder what made the difference at that hospital?
ANDREW BEST:
I have been told that the use of federal Hill-Burton funds set the stage so that the attitude of the people here at Pitt Memorial would go ahead and open their doors.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
Some people must have taken that more seriously than others.

Page 4
ANDREW BEST:
I'm sure that there were people who were segregationists born, segregationist bred, and going to be segregationist even after they're dead. Those "now and forevermore" like George Wallace—of course, Governor Wallace has changed now in his old decrepit age. But one of his pet statements was "segregation forever—today, tomorrow and forever."
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
How would you characterize the racial climate in this area when you came to practice? Was there a feeling that there were opportunities for minority physicians here, or did you feel that there were going to be difficulties?
ANDREW BEST:
My mind was open. To me, the fact that I could get on the staff here in Greenville at Pitt County was a plus. Once I got here, I didn't run into any real hostility, but I could tell that some members of the staff—there were about 36 members of the staff then, and now there are over 500, with Pitt Memorial and the medical school—some physicians were a little cool. If I said, "Good morning," they'd just say, "Hi." But very much to my liking, there were a few people who saw health care delivery as something that everybody should be involved and concerned with. There was a lady pediatrician on the staff, Dr. Malene Irons, and her husband, Dr. Fred Irons, was also on the staff in internal medicine. Early on, from the time I came in '54 for about the following ten years, all the black patients were admitted to the first floor of the east wing of the hospital. Even though we used the same delivery room, and the same surgical suites, to be bedded and admitted, they were all on one floor of the east wing, whether you had pneumonia or a newborn baby, you were on the so-called colored floor. Dr. Malene Irons, as a pediatrician, got interested in this problem, because in the early days, we had what you called an isolette that you put the prematures in, so they'd have the proper warmth and humidity. The newborn nursery with the isolettes was up on another floor. There were some barriers to having a black baby in the isolette in the newborn nursery. That black baby had to come on back downstairs, and shift as they could with the mother. This got Dr. Malene interested, and she and I had some very frank but friendly conversations about the problem. This is prior to the '64 Civil Rights Act, in the early '60s. Let me back up. In the late '50s, in the community there was great concern about the problem of segregation. There was convened a voluntary committee known as the Pitt County Interracial Committee. We had ten volunteers from the black side of the population, and ten from the white side. The idea of this particular group was a mandate to work on the problem of segregation. This was one of our agreed goals, to work on the problem of segregation at all levels, public accommodations, lunch counters and all. Dr. Malene was one of the volunteers. There was a white Episcopal minister, Richard Ottaway, who came out to my office, and we sat down and talked about the whole problem. Out of these conversations, we decided to involve some other people, and we sent out for volunteers, and the group was formed.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
So you helped found the Committee?

Page 5
ANDREW BEST:
Reverend Ottaway was the chairperson, and I was the vice-chairperson. As churches will do, they'll transfer their ministers from one charge to another, Reverend Ottaway was transferred after about a year here, and then the chairmanship was placed on my shoulders, and there was another "white liberal," as the folks put it then, Ed Waldrop, who became vice-chair. Ed Waldrop's name and contributions became very important as we got ready to build a new hospital, of the magnitude it is now and that would accommodate an affiliation agreement with the medical school. So we went along with this, and from the standpoint of being members of the Interracial Committee, Dr. Malene Irons and I approached the staff. We got an agreement from the chief of staff that they would hear us out. This was in the early '60s. My concern was one, that the hospital should admit patients based on the disease process rather than the color of their skin. Another concern was the fact that even the orderlies and nurses and hospital workers were segregated. They had dining facilities, with a sign on this side for colored, and that side for white. I told them I wanted the signs taken away. Another concern locally was that every patient admitted, if it was an eight-year-old girl, it would be little Miss Suzie Jones. If a boy, Master Billy Smith. There was no title given to a minority person, but all the white patients were Mr. or Mrs. and on down. So I expressed that to the open staff. My recommendation was to title everybody or title nobody. You can look at the hospital records now, and rather than dealing with titling everybody, they opted to title nobody. That part was all right with me.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
Did you remain the only minority physician in the hospital for most of this period?
ANDREW BEST:
I was the only minority doctor in the hospital for the next 25 years. There was one doctor who came in, but he didn't stay for about three months. He went into the service and went out to Houston, Texas. I was the only one in the whole county.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
If you were the only minority doctor, then I suppose a lot of the other physicians did admit black patients?
ANDREW BEST:
Oh, yeah. But strangely enough, the white doctors in town had two waiting rooms, one for colored, one for white. When I opened up, I was here to serve the public. One waiting room. From the first week, I had a significant number of white patients, and I let it be known that I was here to deliver health care. Then we went on in the desegregation process in the hospital. In some instances, it might have been surprising, but maybe I shouldn't have been so surprised. There were people who were for what I was recommending, Dr. Malene Irons was my key person. Dr. Malene and I would sit down and talk, just like you and I are talking. We had a strategy for trying to be sure that we got the votes on the staff for them to do this whole thing. It was going to be a big jump, like jumping off a two thousand foot cliff, and we knew that. But there were personalities like Dr. Ray Minges, who was one of the Pepsi-Cola Minges, and they were millionaires in their own right from Pepsi-Cola. I have never had a better or fairer friend than Ray Minges. He practiced surgery as a hobby—he died of a brain tumor—and he got most of the indigent

Page 6
people who couldn't pay. Dr. Minges would operate on them, and didn't even ask about money or compensation when he knew they couldn't. Ray Minges had a lot of influence. Over at the university, we have the Minges Coliseum, that's what the name meant to the community. The Minges brothers were known as the money people in the town, and it's true that money talks. So Dr. Minges was with us, and the strategy that Dr. Irons and I developed was to concentrate, prior to the time we made our presentation, on having discussions with people. We put them in three categories. One was those people who were known to be with us, and then a larger middle category with those who we had questions about, maybe yes or maybe no, and then that far right category of those die-hards that we knew we'd be wasting our time, our breath, and our efforts to even try to influence them.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
Can you guess about how many of each group there were?
ANDREW BEST:
Out of the 36 people on the staff, I would say we probably had about ten who were with us, and about 10 more who we felt were leaning our way, and another ten in the middle group who were leaning the other way, and then about half a dozen who were segregation now and forevermore. First of all, we put a lot of effort into those ten we thought might be leaning our way, simply because this was the right thing, and the economical thing, to do. There's another thing in human relations that ties into this, when Terry Sanford became governor. One of his acts, in terms of trying to foster better race relations, was to appoint the Good Neighbor Council. After he was inaugurated in 1960, he formed the Good Neighbor Council by executive order. He invited a group of people to the executive mansion in Raleigh and laid out his plan. So all this stuff with the Pitt County Interracial Committee preceded that. When we made our presentation, I did all the talking. Dr. Malene is a very mild-mannered lady, so she said, you go ahead and be the spokesman. Strangely enough, they bought it. The majority of the staff voted for it. One of my points I kept hammering on was that this change is coming. It is better for us to bring change through orderly evolution than let it come as a disorderly revolution. We can help it to come, or we can permit it, through our reluctant attitude, to come through violent and disorderly revolution.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
Was the issue of federal money involved at all?
ANDREW BEST:
There was no issue of federal money. There were two things I kept harping on. There had started to be some discussion of civil rights from a federal standpoint, and the civil rights act that was finally passed in '64. But this predated that. I said we should do this because number one, it's right. And number two, it's cheaper for us to do it this way. Why go and provide double facilities when we can have one facility serving everybody? The third thing, it's going to come, whether we like it or not. So we might as well do it our way. So they bought it, and went on an desegregated the hospital. In that same context, this Committee was working for public accommodations to be desegregated. This success in desegregating public accommodations—lunch counters, hotels,

Page 7
motels, and all the others—by pure persuasion, with all of the people in town. Of course some folks had lunch counters where you could sit down and eat, but I couldn't. You and I could be co-workers in some project, and if we got ready to go to lunch, I either had to go to the back door and take mine out, or I'd tell you, "Karen, after you eat, bring me a lunch out." So finally, we got the businesses to agree to set a date to open up to everybody. But nobody wanted to be the scapegoat. With the public accommodations being voluntarily opened up, I'm very sure this had an impact on what the staff decided to do at our request.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
So you're saying the businesses voluntarily desegregated before the hospital did.
ANDREW BEST:
Yes.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
But it was pretty close.
ANDREW BEST:
Yes, maybe six months or a year. But through the work of this Interracial Committee, this thing was going more or less step by step.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
Do you remember if anyone was mentioning the Simkins vs. Cone case at all? That was in '63.
ANDREW BEST:
No. But that was a case up in Guilford County and Greensboro, and really, I don't think that had anything to do with our work here. I didn't mention it, and it didn't come up.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
I don't think that case was very widely publicized or well-known.
ANDREW BEST:
Probably not.
The third jewel in the crown of desegregation was when I was able to persuade Dr. [Leo] Jenkins [President of East Carolina University] to desegregate the university without a court order. All of these things were following a trend, the wind was blowing in a certain direction to get public accommodations desegregated, to get the hospital desegregated, and of course, the schools were in the evolutionary process of desegregation themselves.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

Page 8
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
You had started to tell me about desegregating ECU without a court order.
ANDREW BEST:
It so happened that Dr. Jenkins and I had developed a very cordial relationship. I approached Dr. Jenkins about desegregating the university, and said, "Why can't we go on and desegregate this university without a court order?" This was in the early '60s also. The public schools were under[going] desegregation, but we had been able to desegregate public accommodations and the hospital. During the same time frame, the schools were desegregating after Julius Chambers [NAACP legal counsel] had gotten Judge McMillan to implement the desegregation order in Charlotte by busing. I went to Leo as a friend—we were close enough so in private conversations, we called each other by first name. Dr. Jenkins had several concerns. At that time, Chapel Hill and [NC] State were under court order to desegregate. He said, "First of all, it would be more damaging to our image to admit a minority student who couldn't cut it"—that was his way of saying, who didn't have the background or equipment to survive or achieve, who would flunk out, in other words. "We wouldn't want that." At that time, I was conducting an enrichment program for high school students on a volunteer basis every week. We would run a 14-week course from the latter part of February to April. He had some knowledge of this project, and I said, "I have students who come to me every Wednesday from Goldsboro on the west, all the way to Elizabeth City on the east. I know of at least five to seven hundred black students who can "cut it," using his term, by name. So that's no problem. Then he mentioned his second concern was, "You remember the James Meredith situation down in Mississippi?" He was concerned about the reaction of those die-hard segregationists, who he called the "rednecks." I said that I had considered this. "The student I'm going to recommend lives here in Pitt County, so she has a right to be here. I have already made arrangement with her father for her to stay at home, she lives about 18 miles away, and he's going to give her a car so she can commute from home to school. By that first year, I'm thinking that students will become so accustomed to a black face being around that it will kind of soften up the will of the rednecks." So he thought for a minute, and told me to have her apply. I had the young lady apply, her name was Laura Marie Leary, and she was admitted. To really satisfy Dr. Jenkins, I said, "I'm giving her a key to my house, so that my house can be her home away from home. If the weather's bad, she can come, and if I've got one slice of bread, she can have half of it." Laura Marie went through with flying colors. There were one or two mild incidents where she was walking across the campus, and somebody would do a catcall, "There goes a nigger," or something like that. But essentially without incident. Nothing happened that she could not deal with. She didn't run into what those female cadets ran into down at the Citadel, with hazing and making life so miserable that they withdrew. Laura persisted and went on through. She represented a crack in the door, and the next year, the door

Page 9
opened wider. We had maybe four or five dozen minority students come in. After that, we had participation in football and basketball for the black athletes, and all of those barriers vanished. Not one single undesirable incident happened in this whole process, and that says something about a rural, eastern North Carolina community.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
Eastern North Carolina has a reputation for being hard-line.
ANDREW BEST:
But a lot of the credit goes to people like Dr. Malene Irons, Dick Ottaway, Ed Waldrop, and many others who were of the same mind and mentality, that once the core of leadership, including me and some other folks, presented something that was feasible and would be productive for the community, we were able to persuade enough people to buy into it so we made it work.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
Sounds like there was a lot of cooperation going on.
ANDREW BEST:
To show you some of the things we participated in to soften up the black community, we published—
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
That's interesting, the black community also had to be softened up.
ANDREW BEST:
Yeah. We published a full-page article in the Daily Reflector [the local Greenville newspaper] called "Our Thing." I was the chief author, but others contributed. I'll have my secretary mail you a copy. What I did was to go through at each level, what the teachers' attitude should be, what the superintendent's and the students' and the parents' attitudes should be in this whole context of desegregation. You heard me mention this volunteer project where I was talking with the students? The background of that whole project was to give these minority students some type of what I call "correlative education," where we correlate the importance of every subject in the curriculum. For example, if I'd give a child a question that dealt with a decimal, I was real hard if that decimal point was in the wrong place. I said the difference in a decimal point could be ten dollars or a hundred dollars. You've lost 90 dollars. I'd make it sound real dramatic. We'd also try to emphasize spelling and capitalization. What I was really doing is giving this black child something he hadn't gotten in his formal education to prepare him to compete and survive in a desegregated society. That was an observation on my part, and a lot of other people believed in the same thing. So we had this enrichment program to try to prepare. All of those things fit together, Karen, to ease what could have been problems in the whole desegregation process in the schools.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
So it sounds like the community leaders tried to anticipate problems.
ANDREW BEST:
Anticipate, that's exactly it.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
You as a physician, I presume, had a role in the community that helped you become a leader, and where were some of the other leaders coming from? Education, or the churches?

Page 10
ANDREW BEST:
The situation we were laboring under, the doctor in the community was looked up to for leadership. Sometimes, they rose to the occasion and participated, and were very effective, but I know some cases where a doctor was more interested in making that dollar, and following his social wishes, where they didn't fill the role as effectively as they could have. My background as a poor country boy who had suffered many a moon under some of those undesirable consequences put within me an extra interest, zest and persistence to do some things that should have been done. Sometimes I characterize myself as not only the doctor, but the minister, the priest, the counselor, the psychiatrist. There came some times when I had to fit into all of those roles, not that I counted myself an expert. But I had a philosophy that whatever I could do that would be helpful, I ought to do. And by the grace of God, I shall do.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
Can you say who some of your role models or heroes might have been?
ANDREW BEST:
Yes. My old family doctor, Dr. J. P. Harrison was one of my main role models. I had a history teacher in high school named Elijah Baker who was a great role model. All my high school teachers were very supportive, but I point Mr. Baker out because after having been out of school, trying to work and save enough money to go back to college, Mr. Baker was the one who wrote me a strong letter of recommendation. When I walked into President Bluford's office in Greensboro, and handed him the letter from one of his friends, Mr. Baker, he looked up at me and said, "Son, the quarter's half over. Late registration closed last week." But stopped and read Mr. Baker's letter, and said, "Go down the hall and tell Dean Gibbs to see if he can't find enough classes to get you signed up. On second thought, I'll go myself."
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
That must have been some letter!
ANDREW BEST:
Mr. Baker told how long he'd known me, and some of the struggles I had, and persisted in finishing high school, and "this young man has great potential, and we are obligated to give him an opportunity." So he is a great role model. On the college level, I told you I was enrolled as a student of agriculture. Dean John C. McLaughlin, who died last December ten days shy of 102 years old, was the chief role model, because he salvaged me, Karen, when I had reached a point where I was almost unsalvageable. As I returned to A & T in September of '46 after having spent three and a half of [what were supposed to be] the best years of my life, I was frustrated, I was disgusted, I was dejected. I had made up my mind that I would not spend the time to pursue the profession of medicine. I had decided on a second choice, to enter some university, preferably Cornell, where a good friend of mine had gone, who I had a lot of respect for and who was a landscape architect. I had a great affinity for flowers and beautiful lawns, so I decided I was going to compromise, and I could get my master's in two years in landscape architecture. The dean heard about it. I didn't tell him, but some of the boys in one of his classes were talking, and said, "Best has decided that he isn't going to go into medicine." So he stopped me and said, "What's this I hear about you not going into medicine, Andrew?" He had

Page 11
dispatched one of the fellows in the class to go find me and told him to bring him here right now. He sat me in his office for about 45 minutes, telling this story about himself being the oldest of about eight or nine children, and lost his father as a teenager. He dropped out of school to help his mother take care of all those other little stair steps coming up behind him. And he found himself going back to school at age 25 in the sixth grade. From that standpoint, he finished high school, finished A & T, went on to Cornell and got his master's in rural sociology, and came back on the faculty at A & T. At the time I was there, he had been promoted to dean of the department. When he finished with me after about 45 minutes, my whole vista of life was turned around 180 degrees. He wrote a letter that would be greater than Mr. Baker's letter. If you'd read his letter, you'd think he was recommending me to be canonized in heaven or somewhere! [Laughter] So that turned me around, and he said, "Get those applications, and bring them to me." He sent a letter off with each one, to Meharry, Howard, University of Pennsylvania, University of Illinois, Jewish Hospital in Brooklyn, which had a medical program. But I heard first from Meharry, down in Nashville, Tennessee, so I accepted that. The next day, I got a letter of acceptance from Howard in Washington, so I had to write them back and tell them I had accepted a spot in the class at Meharry.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
Was Meharry your first choice?
ANDREW BEST:
Yes. But that got me turned back in the right direction, because when I came back from the service, I just started shaking my head. I wouldn't be sitting here today had it not been for that 45 minute tongue-lashing that I got from Dean McLaughlin. So he's one of my great role models.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
What about your experience in the service really discouraged you? Or was it coming back that discouraged you?
ANDREW BEST:
I had a few little things in the service that didn't go right, or I wished had gone in another direction. I felt the pangs of segregation a lot of times. But that wasn't what bothered me. The main thing that made me so frustrated and dejected was that the army had taken three and a half of the very best years of my life, and now I don't have all this time. It's going to take four years to go to medical school, at least two years post-graduate training, so that's six more years that I'm dealing with. So that added up to my decision that I would be happy as a landscape architect, and it would be profitable. I could reach that goal in probably two or two and a half years, where I'm looking at at least six years or maybe eight beyond college. The time lines were beginning to bother me. I can't live forever, and I only have so much time. When you're leaning a certain way, Karen, everything weighs in, and really weighs more than it is worth. The big thing that Dean McLaughlin got me to see was, if you spend those extra years, you're still a relatively young man, you'll be able to do something that you could do otherwise. Number one, for Andrew, and number two, for all the people that you love and admire. He said, "I've been watching you for these four years. I know you have some humanistic tendencies in your mind and your soul. To be able to do things for others, now that's going to be satisfying to you." He was able to convince me, and now I'm glad he did.

Page 12
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
Did coming home to a very segregated society after World War II make you want to become active in civil rights, or did you not start that till later on?
ANDREW BEST:
I have always had, from high school right on up, a great affinity for wanting to see people accepted. I guess that goes back, I've listened to some of the tales told by Dr. Harrison, my family doctor, who had suffered many indignities because of segregation. He just had to forge on and ignore them, and do the right thing anyway. A part of being interested in human rights had its roots real early. There have been some stumbling blocks from time to time, but it's been more good than bad. I have seem some changes, and more important to be, I have helped or even caused some of them to be.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
Before you got active in trying to encourage the North Carolina Medical Society to desegregate its membership, had you done any other civil rights work before that?
ANDREW BEST:
Not formally, but as the civil rights movement began to take shape, I was among the first to applaud and send a little money when Dr. Martin Luther King started up his activities after this Rosa Parks incident down in Alabama. I've always been involved, and it bothered me when I would see something that I felt to be right, where it would be wrong to ignore it. A couple of cases in point. In December of '53, I was getting ready to get out of the Army, and I was traveling from Kinston, and was going through Windsor, headed for Ahoskie. A schoolmate of mine had invited me down to look over the area. As I got out of Windsor, headed toward Ahoskie, it had been snowing a little bit, and there was snow on the sides of the road, back in the woods and in the shady places. I came upon a car, it had gotten away from the driver and was on its top, with the wheels sticking straight up in the air. I thought it looked like a patrol car, and as I was stopping, there was a car meeting me that stopped at the same time. The patrolman was down in there, and was pinned in the car. If we hadn't moved the blanket away from his face, he was going to suffocate. So we got that off, and were able to get him out. He had a compound fracture of the femur, with some of the bones sticking through the skin. It so happened that I had my medical bag with me, and had a little morphine, so we got him out, made a hammock with the blanket, and got him as comfortable as he could be. The other guy cut some twigs about like this, and we made a splint for the leg. Somebody called an ambulance to come pick him up. I didn't say a word, and didn't tell anybody who I was. So I got down to Ahoskie, and stopped at the service station. I got a little mud on my hands, and wanted to wash my hands. I told the clerk, "Give me a Coca-cola please, and a pack of chewing gum." So he put it up on the counter. I said, "Do you have anywhere I can go wash my hands." And he said, "Got no damn place for niggers to wash their hands." So I turned right around, and I had an impulse to tell him, "Well, I got these hands dirty saving the life of one of you white folks," but I didn't. He had opened the Coke, but I left it right on the counter, got in my car, and went on. Three or four weeks later, I got a letter from the state highway patrol commander. I guess somebody must have gotten my license number. He wrote me the nicest letter, commending and

Page 13
thanking me. But that incident always stuck with me. Here I am doing a service to mankind, and then I run into such people as that. That encouraged me more and more to make things right for humanity.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
That's an incredible story. I'm real interested in Dr. Harrison that you mentioned. I was wondering if you'd tell me a little about him. It sounds like you've chosen a slightly different way of doing things, even though he was your role model. There was a difference between the older and the younger generation.
ANDREW BEST:
Dr. Harrison was a very kind, community-minded person. His oldest daughter was one of my classmates in high school. He's the only family doctor that I had known. He would always take time to explain things and encourage me as a boy growing up. He said, "Always get me some good grades in school. You never know, you may have to replace me someday." He had a track record for always being an inspiration and encouraging students. Sometimes, if he brought his daughter 50 cents for lunch, many a day, if I or another student happened to be around, he'd give them a quarter or 50 cents too. He was pro-student, and pro-productive living. That was his legacy. Everybody knew him and loved him as a person who was always standing on the right side of promoting a better life for people, period. I'm told that in my early days, when there was an epidemic of pneumonia, Dr. Harrison had been called on by some of his white counterparts to go with them and consult on some of those problem cases, where lives would be saved. He was always ready to give of himself and his experience for the cause of people, of relieving suffering. Some of all these ideas and my attitude was influenced, I'm sure, by Dr. Harrison. He was just a kind gentleman.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
But did he ever take part in any organizations like the NAACP?
ANDREW BEST:
No, not to my knowledge. In fact, when I was growing up, the NAACP was not even active in our town. He was always encouraging people, but from the standpoint of his own life. I guess it fell to me to advocate some of the other things.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
You joined the Old North State Medical Society, you helped form the Pitt County Interracial Committee. What do you think changed to allow this more organized approach to activism later on, in your lifetime?
ANDREW BEST:
From my vantage point, I was on the state Good Neighbor Council, which had a statewide impact. After Sanford's term ended, Governor Moore got elected. He defeated Richardson Preyer, who was the heir apparent to Terry Sanford. Everybody figured that Governor Moore would want to destroy or let go this Good Neighbor Council. Luckily, there was a very able activist in Raleigh named David Coltrane. He had some good rapport with Dan Moore, and through his good offices, not only was the Good Neighbor Council preserved, but we were able, through Coltrane's influence with Governor Moore, to get legislation passed creating the Human Relations Councils as we know them today. Under Dave Coltrane's administration, there was a campaign to get

Page 14
a human relations group established in every county in North Carolina. I don't think we ever made it to the total 100, but we had many local Human Relations Councils who were constituent parts of the state Human Relations Council. When I was on the Council and Dave Coltrane was the executive director, he used to fly a cub plane. Many a day, he would fly from Raleigh into Greenville, and he'd come into this office, in this room, and he and I would sit down and strategize for two or three hours, and I'd run him back out to the airport. If I could go back through all the papers in this drawer, I'd find some of the original manuscripts that Dave and I worked and slaved over, that had a statewide impact.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
What kind of activities did the Good Neighbor and Human Relations Councils do?
ANDREW BEST:
On the local level, they were supposed to be involved in problem-solving where disputes or misunderstandings would come up, dealing with the problem of human relations or race relations. Besides trying to cure a problem that existed, more importantly, they were trying to anticipate things, and prevent them. So it was two-fold. I had always supported Jesse Harris, the young man who's been the head of the local Human Relations Council here in Greenville, and always supported those activities. After I had moved on out, about six years ago, they established a Best-Irons Humanitarian award. The first year, they gave the plaque to me and Dr. Malene [Irons]. Since then, every year they've had a banquet and picked out somebody in the community who's done a lot to promote human relations. I say human relations, because it goes beyond race relations. We're just as pro doing whatever is right, no matter what race you are. That's more or less the thrust of what they're doing now. I served on the state group for about 14 years.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
I'd like to go back to the Old North State Medical Society. You said right after you joined the organization in '54, there were a lot of discussions about trying to integrate the then all-white North Carolina Medical Society. Do you know why they started talking about that then, or what brought it up? Was it in response to the Brown vs. Board decision, or other national events?
ANDREW BEST:
There was a movement toward integration. There were some people who were saying there's no use of having two medical societies. Now that we've offered you total full membership, there's no need for the Old North State. Our position was then, and still is, there is a need for the Old North State because in our programs and promotional work, some of the things which concern us are not covered or even considered by the predominantly white state medical society. They don't even recognize, in a lot of cases, some of the concerns that we have.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
Can you give some examples of some of the things the Old North State Medical Society does that the North Carolina Medical Society doesn't? What were some of the differences?
ANDREW BEST:
One of the main things was, our population base has more indigent, and a greater degree of people who cannot pay for the services.

Page 15
Our concern for the indigent of non-paying person, the welfare patient, is just one area. It might seem to be racial, but it's not. We recognize that there are more blacks involved in the poverty areas than whites. But the whites who belong to that same poverty category suffer some of the same things so far as health care and promotion is concerned. Let's contrast a person who doesn't have the financial stability to go to a doctor. They will wait till the last minute. It's hard to get them to even participate in a preventive program. My patient's a whole lot sicker on average by the time I see him than my white counterpart's patient, because they're going at the first little pain or discomfort they feel. Maybe they go to a hospital where they can be treated entirely differently than my patient, who by the time he comes in, his heart's about to kill him, he's got chest pains. By the time I get him over there, he has a major myocardial infarc. That's the difference, that our patient population presents us with different problems than the average white practitioner. We in the Old North State are concerned about that. Philosophically speaking, we had to try to get our doctors to understand there's a certain part of charity that goes with the territory.

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[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
ANDREW BEST:
Aside from the scientific part of medicine, we've got to deal with the problems of attitudes and getting to the doctor in time so you're in a preventive mode, and all of those things. Whereas our white counterparts don't. One thing that really proves my thesis is that now, since we are desegregated, we have acceptance of minority kids going to all the various schools, UNC, Duke and everywhere else. When those young doctors finish, they have no concept of the social approach, or the realities of life and practicing. So often, I have observed young doctors in the last ten years being more oriented toward those pictures of Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, Cleveland, and all them boys. Where they are more concerned about the dollar return than about the relief of pain and suffering. Where I was trained at Meharry, we often got reference to the acceptance of the realities of life and the demands of your profession. I remember Dr. Walker, who was the chief of medicine and a surgeon too, for a long time during my tenure at Meharry—he would always say, "There is something in your horizon of medicine that goes beyond the color green"—that's the money. "There are certain things you'll find you've got to do." And the likes of Dr. Walker would point out the fact that be it as it may, there are some things about the attitudes and the realities of our part of the population that you just don't get in school. When those young doctors finish Duke and Chapel Hill and whatnot, it shows. For example, the episode where Charles Drew got in a wreck up here near Burlington and got messed around for a while. I wasn't there, but I heard two accounts. One said that the nature of his injuries was such that he would have died and he couldn't have been saved. The other account was that getting him sent from a white hospital over to another hospital, the time frame contributed to his death. The point that my training and my doctors would always say, you have to remember that the problem of racial tension, the fact that you may not be looked on as you should be, and may not be accorded the privileges that you should be, that's something realistically that you've got to deal with. Life is not going to always be pie in the sky. All I'm saying, Karen, is that our training and background gives us a different perspective than the training over yonder.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
How did the training you received at Meharry prepare you to deal with the kind of obstacles that you would have to face? Can you think of any specific examples?
ANDREW BEST:
In general, our doctors and professors would always mention what they called the realities of life and living. I have seen many instances where here is a person of color with the same academic preparation, but a preference, sometime I think it may even be unconscious, is given to the white guy over the black guy. That's a force of that racial barrier that has never been completely erased, even in these days of desegregation. I wouldn't go back to the segregated pattern, not for anything in the world. I know to start with that I may get some things leveled against me that a white person doing the same thing, they might not even bother. That's the people who are sitting up at the top in administration.

Page 17
We have a rule that you have so many days to complete a chart on a patient that's been discharged. If you have over, say, ten charts that are delinquent, they may suspend your hospital privileges until those charts are in order. That's all right. But on one experience I had [in the mid-'60s], I was summoned by mail to go before the credentials committee, and it hadn't even come to my attention that there were some fine lines down there that say the credentials committee may, if it chose, say to the offending doctor that he has to go back and re-apply. Then they suspend your privileges and make you go back through all that credential and administrative [unclear] .
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
This was the credentials committee of the hospital?
ANDREW BEST:
Yes. In other words, when I got this certified letter from the chief [of staff], I went over and got all the charts straightened up. I was feeling kind of good when I met with the committee, because I could report that all the charts were complete. When I got there, the chief of staff read off to me that fine print. In all the years I had been here, it had never come to my attention that if that credentials committee elected to do it, they could send the offending doctor back through the whole process, suspend you from the staff and make you re-apply all over again. [There were] six members on this committee, and when the chairman of the credentials committee recommended that I be dismissed from the staff and given the option of no longer being on the staff or re-applying, there were four out of the six who stood up and defended me. When he first got the floor, he said, "Let me ask Dr. Best a question. Are your charts complete now, do you have any delinquent charts?" I said no sir, I did not. They went on through the discussion, each person made his comments, and they took a vote. There were five people other than the chief, and just one sided with the chief to censure me with suspension and having to re-apply. When the meeting was over, it was four to two, so that killed the whole thing so far as I was concerned. But the one person who sided with the chief, as I was getting in my car, he came over and said, "Andrew, it was nothing against you as a person, but we have this affiliation prospect with the medical school that's being worked out, and we've got to be careful about our rules and regulations so far as the quality of our care." Which was a smokescreen, which I knew. I said, "You have a right to your opinion." And I'm burning on the inside, but I was able to be calm on the outside.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
So you thought being called before the committee was racially motivated?
ANDREW BEST:
Sure, I have no doubt.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
Did you know other physicians who had had done the same thing, and had not been called before the committee?
ANDREW BEST:
It was just common knowledge, if you were to be notified, whatever I'm doing at that particular time, just stop and get that done. That had been a very effective mechanism for [getting] doctors [to keep] their charts in line. But I had a feeling, and I could be mistaken, that this particular person was subjecting me to the fine print of the regulation.

Page 18
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
Was he one of the six that you felt were unconvinceable?
ANDREW BEST:
Yeah, he was one of them. He just disagreed with my activity in the community. This same person was a cardiologist. There was a patient of mine, a dentist, who had more white patients than black. He had some chest pains, and I felt like he was having a heart attack, and sent him to the emergency room, and indeed his cardiogram showed that he did have a myocardial infarc. I called on the group where this particular man was the head, and called his newest partner, who had seen this dentist when he was doing a fellowship at Chapel Hill. So I called on him to consult with me, and this gentleman said to me in no uncertain terms that this doctor did not accept or reject patients for their firm. So I said, "This man was Dr. So-and-so's patient when he was a fellow at Chapel Hill before he joined your firm." He said, "Makes no difference. I will not see him, and no member from my group will see him." So I called another internal medicine specialist, and he very kindly came to see [the patient]. But I knew this particular person had the history of being one of those rednecks who disagreed with this man's reputation for servicing the white part of the population. It was true that his name had been linked romantically with a couple of white ladies, so that was just burning this man up. That substantiated what he was doing to me on these charts.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
Did the incident with the dentist happen before what you told me about the charts?
ANDREW BEST:
No. That happened way after. But the incident with the dentist verified for me the fact that this man has racial animosities as a part of his heart. One of the things I tried to do in the context of human advancement is try never to show any adverse reaction where I am retaliating. I always have chosen to keep myself calm and on the positive side of it.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
I would like to ask some further questions about the Old North State Medical Society. I've read the North Carolina Medical Journal, and the single biggest issue that was prominent throughout the '40s and '50s was that they were totally against socialized medicine. I sense that the Old North State Medical Society's position on that was very different.
ANDREW BEST:
Very different.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
Could you talk about the Old North State Medical Society's position on government funded health initiatives, and maybe give some examples?
ANDREW BEST:
The Old North State is a constituent part of the National Medical Association, [whose] position was always pro-Medicare. When the proposition came up, we've always been pro-Medicare. All of the National Medical Association's constituent societies, the Old North State being one, supported that concept. Now the AMA [American Medical Association], our counterpart, of which the North Carolina Medical Society's part, they were arrayed against Medicare. But mind you, when the law finally passed, [after] President Kennedy started it and President Johnson followed him, the AMA jumped right in to have some of its representatives in the key positions of

Page 19
administration. They'd been against it all the while, now, fought it tooth and nail. But once it came, they jumped in to take administrative and management positions, saying yes or no to this or that.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
Were any NMA people chosen for those administrative positions as well?
ANDREW BEST:
No, not in those original, early days. That made us, so far as the benefits were concerned—there were many minority physicians treating that part of the population that was under Medicare. [They] were able to get some compensation for people [for whom] we'd previously not been able to. Now that was important to us. But as far as making the fine lines and rules and regulations that they went by in applying the law, we still were at a loss. On the presidential level, President Bush appointed Dr. Sullivan from Morehouse in Atlanta in his cabinet as the Health and Human Services secretary. The present president, Clinton, has done what I conceive to be a very fair and equitable job in appointing people to positions, especially in the area of human services. It's unfortunate that Dr. Jocelyn Elders got asked to resign because of a statement that she made, which to me was very unfortunate and ill-timed. When President Clinton nominated Dr. Henry Foster, who was a good friend of mine at Meharry, and I've known him for years and years, Dr. Foster got caught up in that political meatgrinder, where the publicans were against the sinners. He didn't get confirmed, not because of the man's stature or abilities, but because he got caught in that political meatgrinder. Which was unfortunate for the whole country, as far as his being able to do something is concerned. The National Medical Association has been in the forefront of medical progress and a system of health care delivery where the uninsured and underinsured patient is taken care of, too. We've been right on the cutting edge of that philosophical stance. Whereas the American Medical Association has been laid back, and against it. When I was active in the North Carolina Medical Society—I'm still a member, but I'm an emeritus life member, so I don't get involved in some of the day to day things like I did when I was active—they've always raised the specter of "we don't want socialized medicine." Well, when you ask somebody, "Give me the details of what socialized medicine is, and what it means, and how it's going to work," they're not able to tell you what it is. Here again, when the North Carolina Medical Society was one of the groups that was arrayed against the establishment of a medical school here in Greenville, only two professional groups in medicine supported that concept, and that was the Old North State, and the North Carolina Academy of Physicians. Chapel Hill, the North Carolina Medical Society, Duke, Bowman-Gray were all against it to the point that when the Board of Governors, and I was there as a member of the sub-committee on Medical Education—I was thick in the fight of all of this stuff. After the sub-committee got split down the middle, and the chairman didn't want, I'm sure, to break the tie, they engineered a [solution]. They said, "Let's employ a group of distinguished medical educators, and let them help decide." So we created that group at [UNC system President] Friday's insistence, and brought five medical educators in, who went about the state for

Page 20
four or five months. They made a report back to the Board of Governors, and the essence of that report was that North Carolina did not need another degree-granting medical school at this time and this place. I made my little contribution by speaking against the approval of this report, because [I said], "It is not going to silence the cry from Pigfoot Junction and Calico and Chitlin Switch and Beargrass, those people out there who have been deprived of medical care. They're not going to be quieted by the fact that we don't do something about it. It would be foolhardy for us to think that adoption of this recommendation would forever put the question to rest. It was some two thousand years ago that Christ died. He hung on the cross, he was buried, but he rose again. In like manner, this question's going to keep rising and rising until something is done about it. If we adopt this report, the only thing that we will do is to take the ball from the academic arena, where it should be in my judgment, and toss it over to the political arena, where it doesn't necessarily belong. But within our time, let me turn prophet a moment, there will be another degree-granting medical school in the state of North Carolina. The politicians are going to do what we are reluctant to do." And I sat down. It turned out that I was a prophet. What happened, based on the fact that there were 32 members of the Board, 18 voted to approve this recommendation of the five distinguished medical educators. There were 14 of us against. Here again, the minority presence was felt, because there were seven minority members on that 32-member board, and all seven of the minority members stood firm against the adoption of this report saying that there was no need. Seven majority members joined us seven minority members, and that made the final count 18 to adopt, 14 were opposed. The closeness of that vote gave some impetus to getting some legislation introduced to the General Assembly. Carl Stewart from the House and Senator Scott introduced the bill to create the medical school. So the Stewart-Scott Bill was debated. It was referred to the reference committee of five people, and it was up to the reference committee to report it out so it could be considered. If that committee doesn't report that legislation out of committee, it's dead. The reference committee split down the middle, two and two. You know who broke that tie? The then-Representative Henry E. Frye from Greensboro. Representative Frye is now Justice Henry Frye, he's the only minority member of the state Supreme Court. He broke the tie, and let this legislation come out of committee. Both sides were really lobbying Henry, who raised the question of "what are we going to do about minority education?" The pros said, "OK, Henry. If there's something you want in the legislation, go ahead, and we'll accept whatever you say." So Henry scribbled on there that he wanted a mandate for the recruitment and retention of minorities. So far as I know, it is the only medical school in the country with that particular mandate for the recruitment and retention of minorities. Here again, I'm trying to paint a picture to show you where the minority attitude of looking out for the unlooked-out-for is prevailing. All through this is a very clear pattern where, in many other instances, the majority attitude is, "If you can survive, OK, but if you're not in the

Page 21
survival group, the heck with you." Our attitude has always been supportive of the underdog, and that's an important thing to me.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
One major objection that the North Carolina Medical Journal consistently raised was that physicians, as a group, were concerned that taking control away from physicians and giving it to the government or some third party, that interfering with the physician-patient relationship would be detrimental to providing health care. Did the Old North State Medical Society ever address those kinds of concerns?
ANDREW BEST:
From the Old North State's perspective, we didn't look at it that way. [The way] we looked at it, when you look at the historical reality of what had been happening, here was a whole group of people who were unserved and underserved. Whatever it took, even if it took giving up a little bit of authority or preference, we've got to design some measure to get these other people under the umbrella. That was more or less the attitude of the Old North State. In taking the control away from the group that had been more or less in charge, if the group hadn't done anything in a hundred years, how can we explain continuing to let them do the same thing by using that [argument] as a veil to hide behind? That in essence is what the Old North State was saying, that we've got to do something to unlock some of these doors to the people who had been locked out.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
So their position was that even though physicians, both black and white, provided charity care to patients, that it wasn't enough.
ANDREW BEST:
That's right. It wasn't enough. And there were too many people who were not under the umbrella. We still may miss some, but we want to tighten up the net, so you won't have so many falling through the net.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
You've mentioned Medicare and desegregating the North Carolina State Medical Society as major concerns. Were there any other issues that the Old North State Medical Society was particularly active in?
ANDREW BEST:
The keystone of our approach has been delivering care to the advantaged as well as the disadvantaged. I would say that we of the Old North State believe, and I think history will bear us out, that we have been far more of an advocate for the disadvantaged than our white counterpart. For that, I think we're justly proud.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
Of course, I'm sure y'all were involved in efforts to open medical training and education that might be considered professional self-interest and humanitarian interest combined.
ANDREW BEST:
Yes.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
I realize this may have been occurring when you were out of the state, but do you remember anything about the discussions over the desegregation of the UNC Medical School? The first black student was admitted in April of 1951. His name was Edward Diggs.
ANDREW BEST:
I remember the name.

Page 22
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
And then James Slade was the second two years later.
ANDREW BEST:
And somewhere along the line, Lawrence Zollicoffer came along. They have a lecture named after him. Zollicoffer went into pediatrics in Maryland. I don't know what he died of, but he contracted some disease and died.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
Dr. Cochran mentioned him. Didn't he die fairly young, at about 45?
ANDREW BEST:
Yes, he was young. Lawrence was a classmate of mine at A & T in physics, and he was a physics whiz.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
So you knew that he'd been admitted to the UNC School of Medicine?
ANDREW BEST:
Yeah, I knew, and he graduated from there. One among the early, I don't know whether the third or the fourth, it was not too long after.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
One last question, and then I think that about wraps it up. Were you ever involved in any public health clinics, or was part of your practice involved with public health work?
ANDREW BEST:
I have worked in cooperation with the local health department. Sometimes I stand in on some of their clinics, especially their immunization clinics where the nurses are most likely in charge, but the needed the presence of a doctor if anything happened. I've always cooperated with the local health department and the health nurses that were going around.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
But the majority of your practice has been private?
ANDREW BEST:
Private practice.
For twenty-some years, I was the only black physician in Pitt or Martin counties, and my patient geographical area was Pitt, Martin, Lenoir, Craven, Edgecombe, Wayne, all around. I enjoyed a pretty widespread geographical area of people who would come in for family medicine. Fortunately, and to my great relief, the number of doctors settling in the area [has increased]. Now, we have three other practicing minority physicians in town. [Phone ringing] [Recorder is turned off and then back on.]
ANDREW BEST:
The presence of these other minority doctors has done a lot for me, because before, when I was here by myself, I didn't always have the luxury of coverage that I have now. There were certain of my white doctor friends who, for those twenty-some years, did a good job of covering for me. Nobody ever denied coverage if I said I'm going to a professional meeting. But if I said I just wanted to go down to the ocean and get lost for two or three days, somehow or another, the wife always had something she wanted them to do! I laughed about that, I'd make a joke about it. But the presence of minority doctors has made my life much more bearable.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
So that started in maybe the late '70s?
ANDREW BEST:
Yeah, mm-hmm. Dr. Land has been here about 16 years now, and Dr. Arliss has been here maybe 15. I would say the early '80s is when some help came along.

Page 23
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
That's about all my questions. Can you think of anything you wanted to add.
ANDREW BEST:
I don't think so. I've tried to give you a comprehensive overview, and maybe you can pick out a few things.
END OF INTERVIEW