Dr. Phillip Moss holds a belt given to him by longtime YMCA director Paul Grist when Moss' father died. -- Jean Martin photo

Dr. Moss’ career begins and ends here

Published 11:59pm Friday, November 19, 2010

Retired physician Dr. Philip Moss enjoys reminiscing about the first 12 years of life in Selma after his birth at King Memorial Hospital Jan. 27, 1922. “Selma, in those years, was bordered with institutions,” he says, as he lists them: “Dallas Academy, Tillman’s, Lilienthal’s, Academy of Music, Swift’s, Hotel Albert, Selma Del, the Presbyterian, Baptist and St. Paul’s Episcopal churches, Broad Street YMCA, Selma High School on Tremont and, of course, King Memorial.

“Those 12 years are when I could still go barefoot, before I had to put on shoes,” he explains, smiling at the memories.

Moss, known as “Buddy” to friends and family, was the youngest of the five children of Margaret Handy and Dr. Philip Ball Moss.

“We were a close-knit family, playing together outside and with board games inside. Sunday afternoons our father took us for drives in the country. We had a country place known as Breeze Crest on the top of a hill at Benton on the Collirene Road and going there was great,” he recalls.

From 1928 to 1938 “Buddy” went to the YMCA’s Camp Magee. The youngest of the campers he was enrolled at age 6 due to the close friendship of his father and the longtime Y director Paul Grist. One of his cherished possessions is the belt given him by Grist at the death of his father.

“Grist was truly a remarkable man,” he says, smoothing the belt.

The Moss family enjoyed singing together and Buddy often took the solo parts. During his years at Tremont Street High School the first Hi-Y Association in Selma was formed with Buddy and his friend Sam Moseley taking active roles. At its first state meeting (at the University of Alabama) the two were selected for a talent contest, sang a medley of old songs and won. The prize was a gold loving cup “that Sam kept,” he remembers.

At the University of Alabama he was president of the Glee Club and sang two Gilbert and Sullivan Operettas: “HMS Pinafore” and “The Pirates of Penzance.”

After high school graduation in 1940 he entered the University of Alabama to study medicine and when America entered World War II he volunteered for the Navy, was placed in the V-12 Program and was sent to Tulane University, where he and Moseley were roommates as interns. After Moss graduated in 1946 he interned at Charity Hospital in New Orleans and on completion spent three years at the University of Alabama Birmingham as a resident in Surgery, MD, FACS (Fellow of American College of Surgeons) and was certified by American Board of Surgeons.

Moss came to Selma in 1950 and was recalled to active duty as chief of surgery at Craig Air Force Base. After completion he entered private practice in Selma, and he and his wife, Nell, raised a family and became an active part of the community.

He retired after 36 years and received the gift of a captain’s license to operate a fishing boat. So, he and Nell moved to Orange Beach and ran the “Mystery” until, he says regretfully, “Hurricane Ivan took care of the boat and our home.”

In 2003, Nell turned 80 and in November she and Buddy celebrated their 60th anniversary and Nell died in that December.

Moss lives in their home in Selma, where they raised their three daughters: Deckie Buccilli, Smith Lake; Patricia Vlack of Selma, a teacher in county school; and Janet Calame, Selma, community activist and volunteer. There are 10 grandchildren, ages 26-31, and five great-grandchildren, ages 1-7. And when they all come, “We have a house full,” Moss laughs. His daughter Janet takes over some of her father’s business affairs and her husband John Calame “is like a son when needed,” Moss comments.

In his attractive and immaculately kept home, Bernice Blocton is the housekeeper of many years; Jessie Parker, the gardener and houseman of 25 years, whose father Deacon Effus Parker who was there for 25 earlier years.

Although he has Parkinson’s and macular degeneration, Moss remains active and involved. A desk volunteer and board member at the Selma-Dallas County Public Library for 12 years, he still reads constantly, at present rediscovering Horatio Hornblower.

Medicine continues to occupy him in a number of ways. He was liaison fellow to the Commission on Cancer to American College of Surgeons; for a time he and Sam Moseley had monthly cancer conferences at the Medical Center. “After I retired, Sam embellished, improved and created a tumor and cancer program,” Moss explains.

A 12-year member of the Selma City School Board, he still takes a keen interest in education, recalling the years he represented the board during the desegregation era.

Moss, along with Paul Grist, Harry Gamble Sr. and Dr. Claude Brown created what is now Brown YMCA. “We were successful in raising money at a huge banquet where I sat at the speaker’s table with Nell and Jackie Robinson and his wife, who ensured our success.”

In his free time, Moss enjoys playing a favorite game known as chip rummy. His chip rummy group members are Richard Gibian, John Russell and Joe Knight.

“It was started by (the late physicians) Drayton Doherty and Bill Harper shortly after World War I and at that time had two tables going and 10-12 lined up waiting to play,” he explains.

Moss started playing shortly after the death of his wife. Previously golf had been one of his interests. He was a member of the Alabama Golf Association from 1960, serving as president in 1966. “I was good enough to play all over the state,” he says, laughing.

Moss also has served as president of the American Board of Y Directors, a member of the Selma-Dallas County Chamber of Commerce Board, the Board of the Selma Country Club and the Library Finance Board. He is a former deacon of First Baptist Church and chalice bearer at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

To stay fit for his busy days, Moss works out at the Walker-Johnson Y.

Speaking of his long and involved life, he says “I enjoyed my medical career of 36 years. I retired due to a loss of energy from working every other night and every other weekend. I still love Selma, even though a lot of things went wrong over the years. But it is still a good place to be.”

Leave a comment

You must be a registered user and signed in to comment on this article and view existing comments.

Editor's Picks