Tulane honors former Selma doctor

Published 6:16 pm Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Although it has been decades since J. Richard Williams has practiced medicine in Selma, his legacy lives on vividly and still affects many aspiring doctors.

In honor of Williams, who died in 1986 after serving as Selma’s primary physician for many years, Tulane University School of Medicine endowed a series of lectures in his name. The first lecture, held Nov. 8, was titled “Everyday Ethics: the neglected moral dimensions of doctoring.”

“The lecture was in honor of my husband, a Tulane graduate,” said Annie Laurie Williams. “He was a well-known and loved physician in Selma.”

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After graduating from Tulane, J. Richard completed his residency at Vaughan Memorial Hospital, now the Vaughan-Smitherman building, and became the primary physician in Selma where he practiced for many years.

“He would get up and make night calls and take other responsibilities during World War II,” Annie Laurie remembered. “He was very unselfish and giving of himself.”

Along with serving as Selma’s primary physician, J. Richard also performed extensive studies in cancer, which were later published in the New England Journal. His work, Annie Laurie said, is something he did with pride and dedication.

“He loved medicine,” she said. “He was the kind of doctor who would do anything for his patient.”

Because of his great dedication to patient service, the lecture series honoring J. Richard focuses on the art of creating a compassionate and trusting relationship between patient and doctor.

J. Richard Williams Jr., J. Richardson’s son, said he has been waiting for his father to be honored in such a way for a long time.

“The lecture went over very, very well,” said J. Richard, Jr., adding that 75 medical students attended the lecture along with a few faculty members. “The subject matter was in sync with the way my dad lived his life and practiced his art.”

Larry R. Churchill of Vanderbilt Medical Center delivered the lecture, emphasizing the importance of patients viewing their physician as a “healer.”

“I was just very delighted that it was done and that it will be ongoing,” J. Richard Jr. said of the lecture.

Looking back, Annie Laurie and J. Richard Jr. said there wasn’t one life that wasn’t touched by his father during his time serving as Selma’s physician.

“I graduated from high school in 1957 and the people in my class had almost all been delivered by my father, and their parents had been treated by father too,” J. Richard Jr. said. He was the most known and loved physician in this area.”

And that love and passion for serving others with a kind heart will be taught to more young doctors as many more lectures are given in honor of J. Richard Williams, Sr.

“If I had to look back and say who was my mentor, it would be him,” J. Richard Jr. said. “He was a very dedicated man.”