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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with George Simkins, April 6, 1997. Interview R-0018. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Desegregation at Greensboro's white hospital

The doctors who had joined the lawsuit to desegregate Greensboro's white hospitals were the last to be hired to work there, Simkins remembers. Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital desegregated more readily than Wesley Long Community Hospital; there, in a final effort to exclude African Americans, administrators required board certification, a status that had been denied to black medical practicioners.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with George Simkins, April 6, 1997. Interview R-0018. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
Once the lawsuit was decided, how did it work out in practical terms? How long was it before you could actually go to Moses Cone Hospital and admit a patient there?
GEORGE SIMKINS:
They invited the doctors who were not plaintiffs in the case to join. Those of us that were plaintiffs were the last ones to become members of the staff. One of the white doctors came to the office and told me, "George, there's a lot of difference between Cone and Wesley Long. In Wesley Long, you're probably going to have to have federal troops to get in there." Sure enough, they resisted and resisted. But finally, after six or seven months, they sent us applications and acted on them, and admitted us at Cone. At Wesley Long, I never was able to get in. They told me that I would have to be board certified as an oral surgeon to get in. I said, "To hell with it," I didn't even try.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
Would that have required membership in the state medical or dental society? I've run into some cases where in order to be certified, you had to be a member of the state medical society, which didn't admit blacks.
GEORGE SIMKINS:
That went on also, but you had to be trained in oral surgery, and have a board [certification] in it to join Wesley Long, so they said. None of us had our board in oral surgery, even though we did oral surgery. They denied the dentists on that grounds.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
So you would have had to find somewhere else that accepted blacks, and get that training, in addition to the training you already had, in order to get the board certification.
GEORGE SIMKINS:
Yes.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
So you probably would have had to go outside the South, unless you went to Meharry or Howard.
GEORGE SIMKINS:
Carolina, as far as I know, did not accept the first black in the dental school for 25 years.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
So Long required board certification, but Cone didn't?
GEORGE SIMKINS:
You could be on the staff at Cone without being board certified.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
So they basically used that as a loophole. How about the patients? Did those two hospitals begin to regularly accept black patients after that?
GEORGE SIMKINS:
I can only answer for Cone. Cone did, because they had accepted black patients before, but you had to change your doctor, and it had to be something that L. Richardson could not handle. Wesley Long had never accepted any blacks. They started to after thatߞWesley Long I think took a longer period of time, but they did.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
I know for a lot of black patients, finances would have been a serious obstacle to getting better care, especially before Medicaid.
GEORGE SIMKINS:
But even if you had money, they would not accept you. You've got college professors over here with higher income, but it didn't matter how much money you had.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
But after 1963, they could get in?
GEORGE SIMKINS:
Right.