Recently I came across the story of an incredible man, raised in Richland Parish, who became a pioneer in the medical field. Dr. William A. Beck, Sr. was born in Gainesville, Alabama in 1896 and moved to Mangham, Louisiana at an early age (8), where he received his elementary education.
William Armond Beck, Sr. was the son of Ike and Fluta Beck. He entered Homer College, Claiborne Parish, Louisiana, prior to entering Meharry Medical College in 1918. Dr. Beck was a professor of clinical medicine at Meharry for 25 years prior to having a successful private practice in Los Angeles for 23 years.
He was married to Reatha “Rita” Dunnings, also of Richland Parish. Rita was the youngest sister of Eula D. Britton, a beloved school principal, and educator in Rayville. (The Rosenwald School in Rayville was later re-named in Eula D. Britton’s honor.)
“May the memory of his tireless efforts constantly inspire us and the perspective of his great soul-like a mountain peak surrounded its foothill-rise as it recedes.”– Meharrian Medical College Dedication, Class of 1945
Meharry Medical College Dedicates 1945 Edition of The Meharrian in honor of Dr. William A. Beck.
Dedication of The Meharrian
Doctor Beck, was born on a farm in Gainesville, Alabama. The eldest of ten children. He received his premedical education at Homer College, Louisiana. and graduated from Meharry in 1921. At Meharry, he has served as an assistant instructor in anatomy, instructor in physical diagnosis, and assistant professor of internal medicine. In 1931, he was appointed professor of clinical medicine, which position he now holds.
Always interested in humanity, Doctor Beck, was deeply impressed by the tremendous death rate among Negro people due to tuberculous and was inspired to do his best to ameliorate the ravages of this disease, among its unfortunate victims. In 1928 he organized the first chest clinic at Meharry, and although he began active practice in 1925, he has since devoted most of his time since 1930 to chest diseases.
Realizing that one serves best who is best prepared, Doctor Beck has diligently tried to broaden his scope of medical understanding. To this end he studied chest diseases at the University of Chicago, Harvard University, and the University of Pennsylvania. Wholly unselfish in his motives, he has shared graciously of his information with his fellows. Under the auspices of the National Tuberculosis Association, state and local associations, he has delivered lectures and conducted clinics in Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Missouri, and Mississippi. He was one of the pioneers who introduced initial ambulatory pneumothorax in the South for patients who were not able to gain admission to hospitals.
Doctor Beek has worked diligently in an attempt to interest state authorities in constructing a tuberculosis hospital for Negro patients manned by negro personnel. To this end, he served as chairman of the hospital committee of both the Volunteer State Medical Association and the R.H. Boyd Medical Society. His efforts in working toward a city hospital for negroes in the city of Nashville have been no less spectacular.
He is a fellow of the American College of Chest Physicians, a member of the National Tuberculosis Association, the American Trudeau Society, the National Medical Association; the Southern Tuberculosis Association, the Meharry Medical Society, in addition to the medical societies previously mentioned.
The Class of 1945 feels that it honors itself in paying tribute to a man of such ubiquitous achievement, magnanimity of soul, and yet such humility in serving his fellow man” dedicate this issue of the Meharria to Dr. William Beck, physician, student, humanitarian, teacher, and friend. May the memory of his tireless efforts constantly inspire us and the perspective of his great soul-like a mountain peak surrounded its foothill-rise as it recedes.– 1945 Medical College Yearbook, The Meharrian, Dedicated to Dr. William A. Beck
Additional articles concerning Beck, in the Richland Beacon-News
Richland Parish Well Represented In Medical Profession Among the Colored People
The Richland Beacon-News, Rayville, Louisiana. 05 Apr 1941, Sat • Page 2
Foreward: We are in receipt of a letter from Dr. W. A. Beck, a leading colored physician and college professor of Nashville, Tenn., which we are glad to publish, knowing that it will make interesting news to many citizens of the parish, both white and colored. Dr. Beck is a professor in Clinical Medicine at Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tenn, one of the largest medical colleges in the United States for colored students. This school has an “A” rating, and is recognized as the best medical school for negroes in the country.
Dr. Beck is a Richland Parish product, the son of Ike and Fluta Beck, who made their home near Mangham all of their lives. You will note from Beck’s letter that there are other negro boys from Richland Parish who have become doctors, all of whom are from the neighborhood of Mangham, except one who was born and reared near Girard. Here are a few of the degrees won by hard work and study by W. A. Beck, M. D. He is an M.D. Meharry College, 1921; instructor in anatomy, Meharry Medical College, 1921-1922; graduate work in chest diseases and physiology. University of Chicago, 1924; graduate work in chest diseases and physical diagnosis, Harvard University, 1929; graduate work in chest diseases, University of Pennsylvania, 1931; professor of physical diagnosis, Meharry Medical College, 1921-1936; professor of clinical medicine, Meharry Medical College, 1924-to-date.
The three doctors named Dunnings are the son of E. W. Dunnings, of near Alto and Mangham; Chapman was reared near Mangham; and Stephens is the son of Goley Stephens, who died on his farm one mile south oi Girard several years ago. The letter of Beck follows:
Beck’s Letter, ca., 1941
The Richland Beacon-News “Rayville, La. “Dear Sirs: “I am enclosing a U.S. money order for $2.00 to advance my subscription for 1 year. “Under separate cover I am mailing you a catalogue and descriptice literature of Meharry Medical College of this city. I have been on the faculty of this institution since my graduation in 1921. Meharry is in the midst of a campaign for funds to insure her stabilization. This campaign ends July 1, 1941, and if successful the institution will have an endowment of $6,000,000.
The great foundations and many white friends of the city and country at large are joining in with the faculty and alumni of this institution to make this campaign a success. “The following young men from Richland Parish have graduated from this institution: Dr. F. L. Stephens, of Girard, Dr. E. L. Dunnings, Dr. R. M. Dunnings, Dr. O. M. Dunnings, Dr. Chapman, and myself, all of Mangham, La. These young men are all successfully practicing their professions with a credit to the opportunity offered them in Richland Parish. “Thanking you for any good will that you may be able to spread for the only institution of its kind in the world devoted exclusively to the training of Negroes in the branches of medical arts, I am, “Very truly yours, “W. A. BECK, M. D.”The Richland Beacon-News, Rayville, Louisiana. 05 Apr 1941, Sat, Page 2
Physician pens letter to friends in Richland Parish, ca., 1957
The Richland Beacon-News, Rayville, Louisiana. 21 Dec 1957, Sat • Page 8
Foreward – The Beacon-News is in receipt of an interesting letter from Dr. William A. Beck of Los Angeles, Ca., a member of the faculty at Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tenn., for twenty-five years, and a native of Mangham.
Dr. Beck is remembered by many residents of the Fifth Ward, and his outstanding career has been followed with interest by people of both races, who have great respect for his personal and professional success. Dr. Beck is the son of the late Ike and Fluta Beck, who were substantial and outstanding Negro residents of the Fifth Ward. The letter received this week by the Beacon-News concerns Dr. Beck’s son, Dr. William A. Beck, Jr., and local people will be interested in learning of the signal tribute recently paid Dr. Beck, Jr., by General Cassady. The letter follows:
Letter – December 16, 1957, Attn: Mr. H. A. Mangham, Rayville, Louisiana.
Dear Mr. Mangham: I would appreciate it very much if you could give my many friends in Richland Parish a progress report on my son, Dr. William A. Beck, Jr.
He is the grandson of the late Ike Beck and the late E. W. Dunnings. In 1947 William, Jr., graduated from Morehouse College, Atlanta, Ga. 1947-1948 he did graduate work at the University of California at Los Angeles. 1952 he received his M. D. at Meharry College, Nashville, Tenn., where I taught for 25 years. 1952-1953 he spent one year as an intern at the Los Angeles County General Hospital.
He spent the years 1953-1957 as a resident in surgery at the Homer G. Phillips Hospital, St. Louis, Mo., the last year as chief resident in surgery at this 800 bed city hospital. In November, 1957 he entered the Armed Forces as a captain in the Air Corp. Dr. Beck, Jr., is now stationed at Ankara, Turkey, as the only surgeon for 5,000 Americans. His mother and I were very happy to receive a letter from him last week telling about hi3 work. As chief surgeon of the Air Corp Hospital in this city he described a tragic plane crash on Nov. 27, 1957 in which 3 men were killed and five seriously wounded. The injuries, including serious multiple fractures, bums and lacerations were all supervised by him making all decisions in handling the care of these men. General Cassady, who is commander of the U.S. Military Air Transport, was dispatched from the United States to Turkey to investigate this tragedy. He paid a special tribute to young Dr. Beck for the fine manner in which he handled the cases.
Incidentally, I have been reading the Beacon-News for fifty years and never like to miss a copy. With kindest regards for your personal health, I am Very truly yours, W. A. Beck, Sr., M. D.The Richland Beacon-News
21 Dec 1957, Sat • Page 8
Meharry opened the first chest clinic for African Americans in the South in 1926 under the direction of William A. Beck, M.D., F.C.C.P. a 1921 graduate of Meharry.
Dr. Beck was born in Gainesville, Alabama in 1896 and moved to Mangham, Louisiana at an early age where he received his elementary education and later entered Homer College, Claiborne Parish, Louisiana, prior to entering Meharry Medical College in 1918. Dr. Beck was a professor of clinical medicine at Meharry for 25 years prior to having a successful private practice in Los Angeles for 23 years.