John Henry Hale (1878-1944)

John Henry Hale (Public Domain)
John Henry Hale
Photo in Public Domain (CC0)

Surgeon, professor, and philanthropist John Henry Hale was born on June 5, 1878, in Estill Springs, Tennessee, to Aaron Hale and Emma Gray Hale. John’s elementary education was obtained in Estill Springs.

Hale received a Bachelor of Science from the historically Black Walden University in Nashville (Central Tennessee College) in 1901. Afterward, he enrolled in Meharry Medical College in Nashville, the first medical school in the South for African Americans, and graduated with a Doctor of Medicine degree in 1905. Months after graduation, on December 20, 1905, Hale married Millie Essie Gibson, a graduate of Fisk’s Normal School and the Graduate School for Nurses in New York City. They parented two children, Mildred F. Hale and John Henry Hale, Jr., who lived for only one year.

From 1905 to 1911, Hale taught histology at Meharry Medical College, practiced at the adjoining Hubbard Hospital, and took time off to study surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and the University of Chicago.

In 1916, the Hales used the second floor of their home to establish the Millie E. Hale Hospital. This 12-bed facility later consumed the entire house with 75 beds. Hale Hospital also had a maternity ward, operating room, laboratories for studying specimens, and sterilizing rooms as additional health care services for African American patients who were not allowed in or treated at white health facilities. As word spread across the South about this rare hospital for African Americans, thousands of Blacks from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas became patients at Hale. Millie Hale was the hospital’s head administrator and chief nurse, while Dr. Hale served as President of the Board of Directors.

Between 1922 and 1924, Hale held leadership positions in surgery, was a clinical professor at Meharry, and was a surgeon at Hubbard Hospital. In addition, he oversaw the Surgical Clinics at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Over his career, Hale conducted over 30,000 surgeries.

Millie E. Hale died in 1930, and Dr. Hall married Carrie Jordan. Five years later, in 1935, Hale became president of the National Medical Association. When the Millie E. Hale Hospital closed in 1938, Hale was appointed chief of surgery at Meharry.

Dr. John Henry Hale died on March 27, 1944. Married to Carrie when he died at the Hubbard Hospital, he was 65.

In the 1950s, Henry Hale Homes, a housing project in Nashville, was named in his honor but was demolished in 2006. In 2018, Dr. John Henry and Millie Hale were inducted into the Tennessee Health Care Hall of Fame at Belmont University in Nashville.