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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 >>

Fighting for civil rights

Simkins touches on a number of subjects: the decision to focus on school desegregation rather than on other arenas, a younger generation of doctors more motivated to demand rights than their older colleagues, and the segregated court system.

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:
As someone who's real active in the civil rights movement, a lot of people have said that health care just wasn't a major concern, especially at first. Education was really the primary focus.
GEORGE SIMKINS:
Integrating the schools. That's true.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
Why do you think that was so? Because earlier, in the '30s and '40s, it seems like health care had been a very important issue, and there was a lot of activism and philanthropies going out. It seems to have somewhat faded by the late '40s, and I was wondering if you could suggest why that was?
GEORGE SIMKINS:
They were just concentrating on the schools. If they could get the schools desegregated, some of the other stuff would follow. These segregated schools, where you were educating peopleߞor half educating them, or not educating them at all, reallyߞit would be better to get the schools first, then concentrate on other things like recreation and hospitals. They had filed the Brown suit years ago.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
Do you think that people thought that desegregating hospitals would be more difficult than desegregating schools?
GEORGE SIMKINS:
I don't think they even gave it a thought.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
Like you said earlier, those two hospitals had to have been receiving Hill-Burton funds for the case to have a chance, so before a lot of federal involvement. . .
GEORGE SIMKINS:
At that point, we didn't even know what Hill-Burton funds were. We had no idea, we just never thought about integrating these hospitals. All the doctors were happyߞthey were operating, and they had all the patients they wanted, and the income was good. They weren't really interested in integrating the hospitals.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
So it sounds like for a long time, black physicians had admitting rights only at black hospitals, and had a place for themselves there. Why do you think the younger physicians started challenging that? Why weren't they content to continue the way things had been?
GEORGE SIMKINS:
They had been trained better than the older physicians. A lot of them had gone to integrated hospitals throughout the country to do their interns and residents. Some of them were board members.
KAREN KRUSE THOMAS:
So for the younger ones, there were some improvements in training opportunities?
GEORGE SIMKINS:
Oh, yeah. When they came here, some of them were already board members. None of these older fellows were board certified. I got involved because I had been treated so badly with this golf case. I had never seen anything like it in my life. They would get up and lie. Two members of the jury in the golf case, we put them on the stand. They were trying to find out whether we were guilty or not, but we put them on the stand, because we saw their name on the roster of people who had played at the golf course. We asked them, "Are you a member?" They said no. "Were you the invited guest of a member?" No. They paid their money just like we did. Yet they found us guilty of trespassing. I was just incensed. I'd never been in court before, and this was a new experience. The judges and the solicitor were laughing, and they were treating you just like you were not human. [END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A] [TAPE 1, SIDE B] [START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
GEORGE SIMKINS:
So I was fighting for equal rights, and trying to open up some of this stuff. I guess I've paid a price, too.