After serving as the first African American to intern or practice at Flint Osteopathic Hospital in Michigan in the mid-1950s, William Anderson, D.O.’56, FACOS, had the opportunity to continue practicing in that city. Then his wife, Norma, reminded him of a promise he’d made years earlier.
“I’d said if I got my education, I’d go back to Georgia where they need me,” said Anderson, who spoke at DMU’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration Jan. 17. “My wife said, ‘They don’t need you in Flint. You’re going back to Georgia.’
“You owe something to the people who helped you get here today,” he told a full auditorium at DMU.
The Andersons returned to his hometown of Albany, GA, where he established a successful medical practice. In the early 1960s, the couple led the Albany Movement, which fought to end segregation in the city. The organization’s marches were joined by the Andersons’ friends Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph David Abernathy, civil rights heroes and co-founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
“I did not want to become a civil rights activist. I wanted to be a doctor,” Anderson said. “The people who were my patients had jobs and loans to pay and were dependent on the white establishment. But they risked all that for their freedom.
“They didn’t know an osteopathic physician from a bullfrog,” Anderson added, “but they did know I cared as much about their civic health as their physical health.”