Dr. Hagalyn Seay Wilson, Montgomery's first female African-American physician, died Sunday in Montgomery. She was 76.
Wilson opened her first medical practice on Monroe Street in 1958. She would not retire for more than 40 years.
Her son Marcus Wilson, a Montgomery physician, said he could describe his mother in three phrases: mother, missionary and medical pioneer.
"She wasn't paid for over half the medical services she provided," Marcus Wilson said.
Wilson began her pioneering work with little support from the community. She was not allowed to treat patients at white hospitals, so she worked in the basement "colored ward" of St. Margaret's Hospital. Because of her race, she was rejected by the county medical society.
She knew she would face adversity in Alabama. Still, after earning a medical degree from Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania, Wilson, who grew up in and around Montgomery, returned here to serve.
Speaking of Montgomery in a 2001 interview, she said, "This was where my people were, and this was where I wanted to fulfill my mission."
In the segregated era, Wilson faced an overload of patients -- there were few black physicians at the time, and most saw up to 100 patients a day. Later in her career, she made long-distance house calls to patients in poverty-stricken, rural areas.
Marcus Wilson remembers.
"In a time when almost no one was doing house calls, she was loading up the van and taking care of people," he said.
In the early years, even after Wilson became a well-established and respected physician, many people still referred to her as "Rev. Seay's daughter." Wilson's father, Solomon Snowden Seay, was a successor to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as head of the Montgomery Improvement Association and the longtime pastor of Mount Zion AME Zion Church. Wilson followed in her father's footsteps. As part of the civil rights hearings in 1964, Wilson testified and helped bring about the end of segregation in medicine.
Along with her medical practice, she juggled marriage and motherhood. She has six children: James Wilson Jr. , Marcus Wilson, Samuel Wilson, Karen Jackson, Frances Ferguson and Frederick Ferguson. As adults, one became a lawyer, one a business executive and another a teacher; three became physicians.
Wilson retired in August 2001 after more than four decades of practicing medicine in Montgomery, the last 20 from a Carter Hill Road office. After retirement, she became committed to teaching children at the family's day-care center, Seay-Wilson Learning Center, started by her daughter, Karen Jackson.
Wilson is survived by her children, one brother, one sister-in-law, 14 grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and a host of nieces, nephews and cousins.
Wilson's funeral will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Union Chapel AME Zion Church.
Donations in Wilson's memory may be made to:
The Seay-Wilson Fund
701 W. Monroe Street
Salisbury, N.C. 28144
Tel.: (704) 216 6044
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