ROBERT FULTON BOYD (1855-1912)
Fulton Boyd was born July 8, 1855, to Maria Cuffey and Edward Boyd on a
farm in Giles County, Tennessee. In 1866 Maria brought Robert to Nashville
to live with Paul Eve, a surgeon with an international reputation. During his stay with Dr. Eve, he enrolled in night classes at Fisk University and dreamed of becoming a physician. In 1872 he hired himself to General James H. Hickman, a real estate agent. Boyd worked half the day and attended school the other half, receiving no wages. He left in 1875 to enter the teaching profession.
Boyd began his teaching career at College Grove in Williamson County, Tennessee, returning to Giles County the following year. He soon became principal of the male school in Pulaski, and then acted as principal of the female department of Pulaski's public schools.
Robert Fulton Boyd entered the medical department of Central Tennessee College in 1880 and was graduated with honors in 1882. He practiced medicine and taught school in New Albany, Mississippi. He later returned to Meharry as adjunct professor of chemistry. While teaching, he entered the new dental department at Central Tennessee College. graduating with honors in 1886. In 1887, Boyd opened an office on North Cherry Street(Fourth Avenue) to practice his professions among the less fortunate. By the turn of the century, he was treating patients in all socio-economic classes. Doctor Boyd was particularly alarmed by the black mortality rate,and in his paper entitled, "What are the Causes of the Great Mortality Among Negroes in the Cities of the South, and How is That Mortality tobe Lessened?", he made some of the earliest and most astute observations regarding the physical condition of Afro-Americans. Doctor Boyd used public forums, including Nashville churches, to instruct the Negro populace in the causes, origins, and transmission of tuberculosis and taught them waysto combat this disease.
During the summer of 1890, Boyd attended the Postgraduate School of Medicine at the University of Chicago. In 1891 he received the Master of Arts degree from Central Tennessee College. Boyd ran for mayor and for a seat in the Tennessee General Assembly as a Republicanby 1893. He returned to the Chicago school in 1892, specializing in the diseases of women and children. His experiences in a Chicago teaching hospital proved highly beneficial to Meharry, as Boyd became professor of gynecology and clinical medicine there in 1893.
Central Tennessee College had been unsuccessful in securing funds for a teaching hospital, but when the city opened a hospital close to the school, students gained privileges there. Negroes constituted almost half of the patient population. For a time, the wards and clinics were opened to Meharry students, then the city abruptly suspended the permission.This lost opportunity galvanized the resourcefulness of Dr. Boyd, and he opened Mercy Hospital in 1900, located at 811 South Cherry Street.
Ten Negro physicians and Dr. Boyd organized a national fraternity of black doctor. of which Boyd was elected president. This group was the Society of Colored Physicians and Surgeons, which later became the National Medical Association.
In the 1890s, he purchased a three-story brick house on Cedar Street for $14,000, reportedly the largest transfer of realestate to a person of African descent in Tennessee up to that time. When Nashville's second Afro-American bank, People's Savings Bank and TrustCompany, was organized in 1909, Boyd was elected its president.
Death came suddenly to Dr. Robert Fulton Boyd on July 20, 1912, following an "attack of acute indigestion."Funeral services were held in the Ryman Auditorium, and his body was interred in Nashville's Mt. Ararat Cemetery. He was survived by his mother, Maria Coffey.
Linda T. Wynn