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University Archives and History

Dr. George Simkins, Jr. and the desegregation of healthcare

About Dr. Simkins

Dr. George Simkins, Jr. (August 23, 1924–November 21, 2001) was a dentist in Greensboro, North Carolina, and civil rights activist. He was the first African American employed by the Guilford County Health Department.  He served as the president of the Greensboro branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for about twenty-five years. Dr. Simkins is most well-known for being the plaintiff in several civil rights cases that led directly to advancements in desegregation. Particularly, the case Simkins v. Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital, 323 F.2d 959 (1963) resulted in a ruling that directly led to the desegregation of health care, and, by some accounts, to the Civil Rights Act of 1965. (Reynolds, 2004)

 

Dr. Simkins had a long history of civil rights activism, having been a major part of Greensboro-area attempts to desegregate other areas built or supported by public funds. In the case Simkins v. City of Greensboro, 246 F.2d 425 (4th Cir. 1957), Simkins and five others campaigned for the right to use a golf course built using public money and owned by the city of Greensboro. In a per curiam ruling, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld that the city could not operate the golf course discriminately; nor could it “lease” the property to a private third party to circumvent the requirement for fair use of the property. This case has been credited with overturning Plessy v. Ferguson’s “separate by equal” provision, as Brown v. Board of Education only covered education and matters relating to children. (Sinclair, 2010)

 

In the early 1960s, Dr. Simkins tried to admit a patient to Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital. This patient, who was African-American, was not admitted. Dr. Simkins challenged this by bringing suit against the hospital. Hospitals could discriminate on the basis of race at this time. However, Simkins suggested that because Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital had received funds for construction from the government through the 1946 Hill-Burton Hospital Survey and Construction Act, it could not discriminate on the basis of race. Simkins received assistance from the NAACP in this suit. Initially, the United States District Court of the Fourth Circuit ruled in favor of the hospital. However, upon appeal at the United States Court of Appeals in November 1963, that decision was overturned.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit found that because the hospitals were connected to the government through Hill-Burton funds, they could not have the privilege of private hospitals in discrimination. The appellate court also found the two Greensboro hospitals that had received such funding, Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital and Wesley Long Community Hospital, had violated the Constitution. Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital and Wesley Long Community Hospital filed a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the court denied the case. (Reynolds, 2004)

 

Simkins continued a life of activism in and around Greensboro. He worked toward equitable hiring practices for African-Americans in “non-traditional” jobs by leading picketing of Wachovia Bank for job discrimination. (Reynolds, 2004) He pursued efforts to end discrimination in housing, financial matters, and city services. (DeCwikiel-Kane 2016) In 2016, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners honored Dr. Simkins with a memorial statue placed on the grounds of the “Old Courthouse” prominently downtown. (DeCwikiel-Kane 2016)

 

Navigating the materials for research

Writing and news related to Simkins and hospital integration
These materials are concurrent news articles with the Simkins v. Cone trial or writings after the fact.

 

Court Documents Related to Simkins v. Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital
These items are court documents related directly to the Simkins v. Cone court cases and appeals

 

After the case: Simkins' medical career and other health activism
These items are materials related to Simkins' work in the medical field or as an activist, but not directly related to the Simkins v. Cone case.

Further research

Also view Civil Rights Greensboro for more digitized documents relating to civil rights issues and Dr. Simkins in Greensboro and the surrounding areas.

 

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Works cited

DeCwikiel-Kane, D. (2016, October 4). New statue honors Dr. George Simkins Jr., who battled segregation. Greesnboro News & Record. Retrieved April 17, 2017, from http://www.greensboro.com/news/local_news/new-statue-honors-dr-george-simkins-jr-who-battled-segregation/article_727326d4-89ca-5608-b202-250b1b711e0f.html

 

Nelson, A. (2011). Body and soul: The Black Panther Party and the fight against medical discrimination. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

 

Reynolds, P. P. (2004). Professional and Hospital DISCRIMINATION and the US Court of Appeals Fourth Circuit 1956–1967. American Journal of Public Health, 94(5), 710–720.

 

Sinclair, A. (2010). International relations theory and international law: A critical approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 

Thomas, K. (2006). The Hill-Burton Act and Civil Rights: Expanding Hospital Care for Black Southerners, 1939-1960. The Journal of Southern History,72(4), 823-870. doi:10.2307/27649234

 

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