Dr. Milton Quigless was once said to have “birthed half the babies in town.” Once of the first black doctors in eastern North Carolina, he built his own hospital in Tarboro, which still stands as a museum.
Dr. Quigless’ daughter, Helen, Jr., became one of my best friends after I moved to Tarboro in 1996. It was Helen who convinced her father to tape record his recollections of his life. She supplied the tapes, and he supplied the memories.
Helen, Jr. was one of the smartest people I’ve ever known. She had been a librarian, like me, and we hared many a pleasant hour, talking about books and art. Helen’s disabilities (a debilitating form of rhumatoid arthritis which eventually robbed her of her sight), did not stand in the way of her desire to provide programs for the public good, like a summer arts camp for children. How well I remember her skills with raising funds and coming up with ideas for projects, one of which was her father’s autobiography. It took him 10 years to record it.
After Helen, Jr. died, her sister Carol moved back to Tarboro from L. A., where she had been living for 25 years. Carol helped to see the book through to completion. She was aided in this huge project by Michele Cruz who edited, designed, and published the book.
Dr. Quigless’ razor sharp memory comes shining through in this book. Reflecting on his days as a medical student at Meherry Medical School in Nashville, Dr. Quigless writes: “The Depression was on us about 1930-32, and times were rather hard.”