“Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a better person for yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”
– Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
This year marks the 15th annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at Henry Ford Hospital.
It’s become an important tradition for us each year to take time to honor and celebrate the life of Dr. King – his words, rhetoric and actions. It’s truly one of the greatest days that we have here on campus.
Dr. King inspired a nation and he influenced much of the groundbreaking work in racial relations and equality accomplished in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s at Henry Ford Hospital.
Throughout our history there have been many employees who have made a “career out of humanity” at Henry Ford.
In honor of Dr. King’s legacy, I want to share with you some of the individuals and groups who hold a special place in our hospital’s history for moving ahead the cause of equality:
MAYOR DENNIS ARCHER
After completing high school in the 1950s, Dennis Archer moved to Detroit to find work to finance his college education. He wanted to become a school teacher.
While working to achieve his goal, former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer held many jobs; one of which made history at Henry Ford Hospital.
He became the first African American to work in the medical records department at Henry Ford Hospital.
Before Dr. King arrived in Detroit in 1963 to give a version of his “I Have a Dream” speech and lead 25,000 people on a peaceful “Walk to Freedom,” the “Fordsmen” were working to create a more harmonious work environment at Henry Ford Hospital.
The Fordsmen Club were formed in 1961 by a group of African-American employees to serve as both a social and supportive role to all employees. Their work was groundbreaking at a time when hospital patients and staff in Michigan were not yet integrated.
The Fordsmen in 1961 were Felton Petty, Ernest Slaton, Charles Robinson, Robert Haskett, Fletcher Jefferson, Virgil Waters, Lee Gooden and George Smith.
LEE GOODEN & WILMA GANDY
What began as a violent public disorder on the morning of July 23, 1967 soon evolved into a civil disturbance when rioting broke out after police raided an illegal after-hours bar and arrested 85 people on 12th Street and Clairmont, in the Virginia Park neighborhood of Detroit.
It was a defining moment in Detroit history, affecting every resident and business in the city, including Henry Ford Hospital.
During the first few days of the riots, many employees including the Fordsmen’s Lee Gooden, stayed at the hospital to care for patients. Gooden and many others watched from the 17th floor of the clinic building as the city burned.
Many employees bravely made their way to work at Henry Ford Hospital in the days following the initial outbreak of the riots. Most notably, ward clerk Wilma Gandy came to the hospital the morning after the start of the riots to help her patients.
Adding to her place in Henry Ford Hosipital history, Gandy also is credited with working to integrate patients at Henry Ford Hospital in the 1960s and 1970s.
NURSES MARY MORRIS & THERESA JONES
In April 1972, Henry Ford Hospital appointed Theresa Jones, R.N. as the first African American Director of Nursing Education.
That same year, Mary Morris was appointed the first African American Director of Nursing.
With Theresa Jones and Mary Morris in their new roles, the hospital both integrated and restructured the nursing department.
I believe Dr. King would be proud of all of these individuals and their accomplishment. We are forever indebted to them and their extraordinary work at our hospital.They left an important mark on our health system’s history.
Now in our 100th year, today not only offers an opportunity to look upon our past but celebrate a future of great health care and great community partnerships.
But there’s another important anniversary coming up in March: The 50th anniversary of the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. The 54-mile-walk was to show the desire of African Americans to exercise their constitutional right to vote.
This anniversary is yet another opportunity to celebrate the incredible work and life of Dr. King to move forward the causes to create the next 50 years of our life in America with greater equality.
The message of equality, justice and tolerance is enduring and serve as a beacon of hope to the entire world.
It’s a journey, however, that has not yet been concluded.
To learn more about the above-mentioned individuals and our incredible history at Henry Ford, be sure to visit the new 100 Year Anniversary website.
You can also go to the Henry Ford Hospital Facebook page to view photos from today’s MLK celebration.