Lawrence W. Long, MD

Often overlooked in the struggle to secure better living conditions and social services for black people in the segregated South is the role played by the medical profession. African-American doctors in the segregated South were frequent targets of discrimination. Salaries and facilities were inferior to those enjoyed by white doctors and blacks had great difficulty in obtaining internships because they were denied admittance to white hospitals. Convinced that the black medical profession in South Carolina was “in a state of coma,” Long was determined to do something about it. The tragic death of an older sibling convinced Long at a very early age that he should work to become a doctor. After receiving his degree from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Long opened his medical office in Union, SC. He established the first state-licensed hospital for black people in Union, one of the first in the state headed by a black physician, after several of his critically ill patients were not allowed to be treated in white hospitals. The Union Community Hospital provided preventive medical services and mass immunizations. His immunization program was so successful that it was adopted throughout Union County. In 1934, Long began to sponsor annual medical clinics in Union, attracting doctors from South Carolina and other southern states. His clinics continued for 47 years and provided many African-American doctors with the opportunity to upgrade their skills in the face of segregation. Among the many guest clinicians who attended the conferences was Charles Drew, M.D., the inventor of blood plasma. “I feel that without a doubt the annual clinics that were held by my husband were the forerunners of continuing education for black physicians in the South Carolina area,” said his wife, Ms. Julia Spann Long. “My husband was a staunch believer in continuing education.” Before Long died in 1985, he used his position to embrace the youth in the community by building and operating the Union Community Center. It was the only recreational facility for African-Americans in the Piedmont area. The facility consisted of a swimming pool, playground, baseball field, basketball court, skating rink and cafeteria. Long was an innovator in more ways than one. Not simply content with improving facilities for the black community, he advocated integration of the community as far back as the 1930s. Not only was this idea unpopular with white southerners but also with some of his African-American colleagues. Long believed, however, that segregation had put the black medical profession in the South “on the brink of destruction” and that its only hope of survival was to provide a quality health-care facility for “his” people. Also, in keeping with his concern for social justice, Long organized the first chapter of the NAACP in Union County. Elected to the Palmetto Medical Association in 1940, Long served as president for one year. During his tenure, he organized four area medical societies to promote unity among the physicians of the state. In 1960, President John F. Kennedy invited him to the White House to discuss the Medicare Bill. In 1957, he was named “Doctor of the Year” by the National Medical Association. In 1981, he was recognized by the president and board of trustees at Meharry College. Appropriately, the plaque which he received read, “Presented to Dr. L.W. Long for 50 years of Service to Mankind.”