James Henry Southall (1841–1901)

James Henry Southall was a founding member of the Medical Department of Arkansas Industrial University, the precursor to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS).

Southall was born on November 5, 1841, in Smithville, Virginia, the son and grandson of distinguished Virginia physicians. After the completion of his education and the interruptions of life caused by the Civil War, Southall moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County) at a time when the local medical community was beginning to consider forming a medical school in the state.

As with many physicians of his era, Southall had begun his medical education by reading medicine under the tutelage of a professional, Dr. Robert Tunstall of Norfolk, Virginia. He attended medical school at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Louisiana (Tulane), graduating from that institution in 1861, just in time for the war.

Southall enlisted in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia as assistant surgeon for the Fifty-fifth Virginia Infantry. He was promoted to full surgeon on May 27, 1862, and held that rank throughout the war. He saw action in the battles of Richmond, Cedar Run, Second Manassas, Hagerstown, Harpers Ferry, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. Southall was left in charge of the wounded of his brigade at Gettysburg and was taken prisoner. He was held at Fort McHenry in Maryland for six months before he was paroled and later exchanged for Union prisoners on December 3, 1863. He returned to his unit for the remainder of the war and was surrendered by General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox on April 9, 1865.

After the war, Southall practiced briefly in Virginia before moving to Memphis, Tennessee, and later to Marion (Crittenden County). He and his family—including his wife, Olivia Gertrude Murphy Southall, and two daughters—moved to Little Rock in 1872.

The 1870s were a period of political turmoil in the state’s medical community. There was a recognized need for medical education in Arkansas, but many issues surrounding the training and licensing of physicians led to divisions in the community; the result was the formation of diverse state and local medical societies. Any idea of creating a medical school would have to wait for resolution of those issues. In 1879, with most of the divisive issues resolved, Dr. Southall joined Dr. Philo Oliver Hooper and six other physicians in the formation of the Medical Department of Arkansas Industrial University. Southall became Chairman of the school’s Institutes of Medicine (Physiology). In 1886, he became Professor of Theory and Practice of Medicine.

Southall was active in the city, county and state medical societies. He was a member of the American Medical Association (AMA) and the Medico-Legal Society of New York; he was also a founding member of the Little Rock Medical Society and served one term as its president. He was elected president of the Arkansas Medical Society in 1882. Southall apparently was quite involved with the Arkansas General Assembly since, in its resolution honoring him on his death, the Medical Society remembered him as “a man who had done more for medical legislation than any other member of the state Society.”

Southall died on July 22, 1901, of oral cancer. In services attended by the entire Medical Society, James H. Southall was entombed in the family mausoleum in Oakland Cemetery in Little Rock.

For additional information:
James H. Southall Personal Papers. Archives Collections. University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Library, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Baird, W. David. Medical Education in Arkansas, 1879–1978. Memphis, TN: Memphis State University Press, 1979.

Max L. Baker and Fred O. Henker
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences


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