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Weekly 150

Dr. James T. Holmes

The Dedicated Physician

Posted 6/4/19

In 1956, The McKenzie Banner began “The Banner Salutes McKenzie Citizens.” Each week, through a panel of judges, a different person was selected for the honor. In the edition below, The …

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Weekly 150

Dr. James T. Holmes

The Dedicated Physician


In 1956, The McKenzie Banner began “The Banner Salutes McKenzie Citizens.” Each week, through a panel of judges, a different person was selected for the honor. In the edition below, The Banner’s “Man of the Week” comes from July, 1956 with Dr. James T. Holmes.

The Banner’s “Man of the Week” for this issue bears a middle name which has been a source of both pride and embarrassment all of his life. His parents, devote Methodists, named him for an eminent minister of that faith, Bishop James Thoburn. That wouldn’t have been so bad, but they chose to call him “Thoburn,” and so he is known by his many friends and relatives whose association goes back to his youth. Unusual, generally misspelled, the name has been allowed to remain obscure in maturity.

The spotlight turns and we salute Dr. J.T. Holmes. Words cannot express our appreciation of Dr. Holmes and what he has meant to the welfare of McKenzie.

Dr. Holmes was born on April 15, 1903 in the tiny village of Poplar Springs, in Henderson County, Tenn. His family moved when he was eight to Juno, another village, some five miles from Lexington, Tenn.

He attended the elementary grades at the one-room school at Juno. High school in those days of poor roads meant boarding in Lexington, and he stayed at home and ran his father’s farm for four years before moving to Lexington as a boarding student. He and his wife, the former Mary Elizabeth Ball, met as they entered high school together in 1921, became sweethearts and theirs was a romance of 13 years duration when they were married at the First Baptist Church in Lexington, in a beautiful ceremony on October 6, 1934, by Mrs. Holmes’ father, the late Reverend Fleetwood Ball.

Dr. Holmes’ record as an athlete in high school was outstanding. Star forward on the basketball team for four years, he also excelled in track. In 1928 he won the gold medal for first in pole-vaulting at the track meet held at what is now Memphis State (University of Memphis).

Prior to his entry into the Pharmacy School of the University of Tennessee, he taught school in Henderson County and carried the mail for his father, Jessie L. Holmes. During his three years in Pharmacy School he earned all his expenses by working in Pharmacies in Memphis, spending two years as a pharmacist in the Memphis General Hospital, which was located on the site of the present John Gaston Hospital (demolished in 1990 in order to expand the newer facilities of the Regional One Health Medical Center).

Graduating with a degree of Bachelor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry in 1928, Dr. Holmes received awards for his scholarship and leadership. In 1933, with his brother, J.P. Holmes, now of Lexington, he bought a drug store on Jackson and Evergreen in Memphis, which they operated together for two years, then Dr. Holmes operated it alone until he sold it when he was half way through medical school.

Taking his premedical work at Memphis State when he could spare time, he entered the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in 1936. James Holmes, Jr. was a few months old when his father started this new venture. Lewis Ball Holmes was born while Dr. Holmes was a student in the seventh quarter.

He interned at St. Joseph Hospital in Memphis following his graduation in June 1939 (the hospital where Martin Luther King Jr. was pronounced dead in 1968). Then he spent some nine months as assistant Medical Director with the Tennessee Valley Authority, dividing his time between the offices in Chattanooga and Wilson Dam, Ala.

Dr. and Mrs. Holmes and their sons came to McKenzie to make their home in April 1941, and he opened his offices for practice on May 1, in the building where he is still located (625 North Main St.). On April 1, 1943, their daughter, Mary Elizabeth was born.

Preferring to devote his time to his profession, Dr. Holmes has been reluctant to accept positions which would take him from his patients. But he has just led the McKenzie Lions Club through a successful year in which they won the Clifford Pierce award for superiority over the other clubs of West Tennessee. He is also City Health Officer, chairman of the Carroll County Board of Health, and president of the 14-county West Tennessee Medical Assembly.

He is a member of the McKenzie First Methodist Church and the local Masonic Lodge.

Dr. Holmes’ hobby is farming. He knows the business from the days when as an a 8-year-old boy, he plowed behind a mule. His farm, some five miles southwest of McKenzie, is being developed along the latest principles of the Soil Conservation program.

Dr. and Mrs. Holmes and their children live in the same house of Paris Street to which they moved 15 years ago. Jim will enter Howard Medical School in September. Lewis will be a Sophomore at Princeton University. Mary Elizabeth will be a student in the eight grade of the McKenzie Junior High School this fall.

Dr. Holmes retired from general practice on September 1, 1986, after providing care for the McKenzie area for 45 years. In that time, Dr. Holmes delivered the majority of children in McKenzie including my mother (Joy Story Martin) in October 1951.

On October 24, 1988 the legendary physician suffered a stroke and was hospitalized. Dr. Holmes died November 20, 1988. In his obituary it noted, his only vacations were taken to attend the graduation exercises and marriages of his three children, and his aunt Mrs. J. Adrian Bramley of McLemoresville convinced him to open a practice in McKenzie.

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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