FW: ANB - Bio of the Day: Dr. Toussaint Tourgee Tildon
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Subject: ANB - Bio of the Day
American National Biography Online
Tildon, Toussaint Tourgee (15 Apr. 1893-22 July 1964), physician
and psychiatrist, was born in Waxahachie, Texas, the son of John
Wesley Tildon, a physician, and Margaret Hilburn. Tildon received
a bachelor's degree from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in
1912. He then studied pre-law at Harvard for one year before
entering medical school at Meharry Medical College in Nashville,
Tennessee. He transferred to Harvard, earning an M.D. in 1923
and specializing in psychiatry and neurology.
At that time, the Tuskegee Veterans Administration Hospital,
aided by the National Medical Association, was recruiting qualified
physicians to evaluate patients. Health care for African Americans
was limited, and doctors at Tuskegee attempted to improve health
care in the deep South. Few black physicians practiced in Alabama,
and blacks suffered injuries from work and diseases prevalent
in the region. The establishment of a veteran's hospital at Tuskegee
created the need for professional physicians and nurses who could
treat the large percentage of psychiatric cases seen in World War I
Tildon was selected for a special training program in psychiatry
and neurology at Boston University. With three other physicians,
he prepared to join the neuropsychiatric department at the veteran's
hospital. Tildon studied with Solomon C. Fuller, a prominent
black neurologist at Boston University. Fuller expanded the men's
knowledge and experiences in neuropsychiatric work.
Moving south in October 1923, Tildon was one of the first six
African-American doctors on staff at Tuskegee's veteran's hospital.
Since the hospital's establishment, white physicians and personnel
staffed the facility despite black leaders' demands that qualified
black physicians be placed in charge. In racially tense Macon
County, local whites protested the hiring of black professionals,
but veteran's Bureau Director Frank T. Hines, who selected the
new medical men, insisted that the black physicians commence
service. Tildon began work as a junior medical officer in psychiatry.
In 1924 he married Margaret Cecelia Greene; they had four children,
including son Toussaint Tourgee Tildon, Jr., who became the chief
of thoraic and vascular surgical service and acting assistant
chief of surgical service at the Tuskegee Veterans Administration Hospital.
Continuing his medical training with Hospital Director Eugene
Dibble, Tildon eventually became the clinical director of the
neuropsychiatric department. Tildon served as a colonel in World
War II. When Dibble resigned in July 1946, Tildon was named manager
and director of the hospital. During his twelve-year directorship,
he set high standards for the hospital. He achieved professional
progress for the hospital by securing accreditation for the residency
program in medicine and dentistry there; he also secured professional
recognition for black physicians in the Tuskegee hospital as
well as at other government hospitals and medical facilities.
After World War II, the federal government decided to reorganize
veteran's hospitals to accommodate the increased number of patients.
Politicians and physicians acknowledged that more teaching programs
were needed to prepare competent personnel. In January 1946 Congress
created a graduate training program in the Veterans Administration,
enabling physicians and dentists to complete residencies at veteran's
The Tuskegee Veterans Administration Hospital cooperated with
medical and dental schools at the University of Alabama and Emory
University. Tildon supported resident education in the Tuskegee
Veterans Administration Hospital's Department of Medicine and
Surgery. Residents could train in medicine, surgery, or dentistry.
Tildon concentrated on establishing fully accredited residency
programs. He also was concerned with securing government medical
positions for black physicians. The Veterans Administration and
government hospitals offered black medical personnel access to
secure and satisfying medical employment.
In addition to acting as a mentor to black physicians, Tildon
pursued research about encephalitis in African-American veterans.
He also conducted experiments with syphilis and heart disease
suffered simultaneously with tuberculosis. He published articles
about these concerns in such periodicals as the U.S. Veterans'
Bureau Medical Bulletin.
Tildon retired from the Tuskegee Veterans Administration Hospital
on 31 January, 1958. He and his wife remained in Tuskegee, where
they were active in the African Methodist Episcopal church. Tildon
died in Tuskegee.
Tildon's published works include "Heart Disease in Pulmonary
Tuberculosis," U.S. Veterans' Bureau Medical Bulletin 7 (1931):
833-38; "Residua of Encephalitis Lethargica among Negro Veterans,"
U.S. Veterans' Bureau Medical Bulletin 3 (1927): 214-17; "Syphilis
of the Intrathoracic Vessels," U.S. Veterans' Bureau Medical
Bulletin 5 (1929): 752-59; and "Facts of Interest in Connection
with the Veterans Administration Facility, Tuskegee, Alabama,"
Journal of the National Medical Association 33 (1941): 81-82,
with George C. Branche and P. P. Barker. For biographical information,
see Pete Daniel, "Black Power in the 1920s: The Case of Tuskegee
Veterans Hospital," Journal of Southern History 36 (1970): 368-88;
Herbert M. Morais, The History of the Afro-American in Medicine
(1976); Asa G. Yancey, Sr., "Tuskegee Veterans Administration
Medical Center: Genesis and Opportunities It Provided in Surgery,"
in A Century of Black Surgeons: The U.S.A. Experience, ed. Claude
H. Organ and Margaret M. Kosiba (1987); and S. L. Younge, "Toussaint
Tourgee Tildon, Sr., M.D., 1893-1964," Journal of the National
Medical Association 56 (Nov. 1964): 565-67.
Elizabeth D. Schafer
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Elizabeth D. Schafer. "Tildon, Toussaint Tourgee";
American National Biography Online Feb. 2000.
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