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Weekly 150

Dr. E.E. Edwards

From Army Doctor to Family Doctor

Posted 7/16/19

Dr. Elbert E. Edwards, Jr. came to McKenzie on November 1, 1945 after leaving the Army as a Captain. Edwards was offered a promotion to Major, but declined the promotion for the desire to practice …

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Weekly 150

Dr. E.E. Edwards

From Army Doctor to Family Doctor

Posted

Dr. Elbert E. Edwards, Jr. came to McKenzie on November 1, 1945 after leaving the Army as a Captain. Edwards was offered a promotion to Major, but declined the promotion for the desire to practice family medicine. For most of his medical career in McKenzie, he practiced medicine next door to Dr. J.T. Holmes adjacent to town square on North Main Street.

The local doctor was born in Bells, Tenn. in 1915 to a dry goods merchant, Elbert E. Edwards, Sr., and Blanche Tucker Edwards. He had an older sister, Margaret, to whom his parents were forced to referee arguments between the pair over the family Model T.

The summer months were filled with work for young “Ebb” Edwards. His father insisted Ebb clerk in the store, paint their house and keep a large garden plot at home. Following his father on the farms instilled a desire to watch things grow and fostered an interest in cattle.

His high school education came from the Crockett County public school system. From there Edwards began college at Lambuth University in Jackson before transferring to Memphis, where he received his pre-med degree. He then attended the University of Tennessee Medical School in Memphis. It was in this time span the Great Depression hit, and the doctor-in-training felt obligated to help his family. During his limited free time, he worked Thompson Brothers Funeral Home.

The day after graduating from medical school, Dr. Edwards became a patient at a Memphis hospital for an emergency appendectomy. Four days later, he reported for his internship in Little Rock, Ark. It was in Little Rock where he met his future wife Liberty Aloyce “Tibby” McWhirter.

Following his internship, Edwards volunteered to serve “his year” in the U.S. Army Medical Reserves. He received a commission as a First Lieutenant. Figuring his military assignment would not come soon, Edwards accepted an offer to work in Holdenville, Okla. His tenure was cut short as he received orders to report to Camp Beauregard in Louisiana. From there he was sent to Camp Livingston, where he was on the first medical staff on the new base hospital.

On December 11, 1940, Ebb and Tibby were married in Little Rock. After a short wedding trip, the bride returned to Little Rock and groom to camp. Three months later, the Tibby was able to move into the couples new apartment on base.

By fall 1941, pressure was on for reserve officers to volunteer an additional year. Edwards was promoted to Captain just prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

In June of 1942, Edwards was part of a 44th station hospital staff sent to the Alberta Providence in Canada. In November, Mrs. Edwards was allowed to join her husband. It was a cold winter for the couple as temperature bottomed out at 65 degrees below zero. The spring months brought an assignment to Waterways, Alberta where he experience 24-hour long days.

Dr. Edwards was assigned stateside in September of 1943. Stationed in Olympia, Washington were the couple began living as a family with their 10 week old son Elbert “Bo” Edwards, III.

Assigned to the 20th Armored Division, Edwards sailed for the European Theatre in January 1945. Stationed near Munich, Germany the doctor saw U.S. Forces entrenched in heavy combat with numerous casualties. In July, he was sent back to the U.S. With five years of service, Dr. Edwards had enough of military service. He declined a promotion to Major and was “mustered out.”

Adjusting to civilian life offered its complications because the doctor needed a place to hang his shingle. He found that place in McKenzie.

McKenzie offered the young doctor not only a place to work, but a place to call home as the family had grown weary of Army and war time.

The Edwards family grew with the birth of son Robert in 1947 and daughter Meredith in July 1949. By 1952, Dr. Edward’s health began to decline after being diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease(PKD), a genetic disorder that causes many fluid-filled cysts to grow in your kidneys. PKD reduces kidney function and can lead to kidney failure.

Dr. Edwards always had a deep sense of loyalty to his friends and to the community. It was this quality that made him feel he owed some time to public service whenever he could spare it. When he moved his church membership to First Methodist he accepted the position on the Board of Stewards. A position he held for 10 years.

In 1954 he was elected president of the Rotary Club of McKenzie. He was a member of the Chamber of Commerce, the VFW and the American Legion.

Despite being diagnosed with PKD, he continued to practice medicine until just one week before his death on February 17, 1963. The pairing of Dr. Edwards and Dr. Holmes in McKenzie is a great cornerstone to the establishment of healthcare in McKenzie, and the thousands of babies delivered by the pair.

Jason R. Martin

B.S. • M.A.Ed • MLS

Councilman, Ward II

Executive Chairman, McKenzie 150th Celebration

E: jmartin@mckenziebanner.com  P: 731.352.3323

Jason Martin is a life-long resident of McKenzie. He graduated from McKenzie High School in 2000; earned a Bachelor of Science in History from Bethel College in 2004; a Masters in Education from Bethel University in 2009 and a Masters in History and Humanities from Fort Hays State University in 2011.

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