Brief Overview of Collection, MC08

Name: Memoirs of Dr. William Groce Harrison, Sr.

Dates: circa 1950

Extent: .25 cubic foot

Historical Note:
The son of Dr. John Tinsley and Sarah Simmons (Groce) Harrison, William Groce Harrison was born on 29 April 1871 in Talladega County, Alabama. Harrison received his undergraduate education at Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University), and earned a medical degree from a one-year course at the University of Maryland. Harrison then matriculated in the first class of the new Johns Hopkins Medical School in 1893. There, he worked with Dr. William Osler. In 1895, Dr. Harrison returned to Alabama and established his practice in Talladega County. While attending a class reunion in Auburn, he met Louisa Marcia Bondurant whose father was a professor of agriculture at API and a Virginia plantation owner. Louisa Bondurant and Harrison were married in Auburn on 16 August 1896. They had five children including Dr. Tinsley Randolph Harrison. In 1905-1906, Dr. Harrison studied medicine in Vienna and returned to establish a practice in Birmingham where he remained the rest of his life. A man of many interests, Dr. Harrison taught a weekly class in medical history at the original Vanderbilt Medical School. Dr. Harrison continued to practice medicine for a number of years in Birmingham and died there on July 28, 1955.

Scope & Contents: One spiral bound notebook containing a typed transcript.

Accession Number: M1993-03

Provenance:
This memoir was given to the UAB Archives in 1993 by Dr. James A. Pittman, Jr., dean of the School of Medicine. A grandson of Dr. Groce Harrison had given the memoir to Dean Pittman. In 2000 the grandson executed a signed deed of gift after discussions with and approval by several other grandchildren of Dr. Harrison.

Copyright: UAB owns the copyright and proprietary rights to this memoir.

Finding aid: Printed descriptive guide by William A. Harris and Tim L. Pennycuff available in repository.

Access Points:
Harrison family.
Harrison, Tinsley Randolph, d 1900-1978.
Harrison, William Groce, d 1871-1955.
Medicine z Alabama x History.
Physicians z Alabama z Birmingham x Personal narratives.
Osler, William, Sir, d 1849-1919.

Document Types: Notebooks.

Location: Manuscript Stacks

Related Series: MC03, Tinsley Randolph Harrison Papers; MC07, Tinsley Randolph Harrison Collection

Physical Condition: Acid free folder and acid free box

Biographical Note
William Groce Harrison was born on 29 April 1871 in Talladega County, Alabama, the son of Dr. John Tinsley, Jr., and Sarah Simmons (Groce) Harrison. Groce's father was born in Madison County, Alabama, in 1834, the younger of two sons of Dr. John T., Sr., and Melinda (Stone) Harrison. J. T., Jr., earned his degree from the medical school at the University of Nashville, practiced medicine in Alabama, and died in Talladega in 1915. Groce's mother, Sarah, was the daughter of Jared E. and Sarah (Simons) Groce, and was born in Talladega in 1846. She died in 1919.

The young Groce Harrison received his undergraduate education at Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University), receiving a B.S. degree in 1890. He earned a medical degree in 1892 from his father's alma matter, the medical school of the University of Nashville, one of the predecessors of the current medical school at Vanderbilt University. Feeling that he needed additional education, he enrolled in the Medical College of Baltimore, where he earned a second medical degree in 1893. In Baltimore, he met Sir William Osler who later persuaded the young Dr. Harrison to enroll in the new medical school at Johns Hopkins University. It would have been Harrison's third medical degree. Harrison was accepted as a member of the first medical class but a trip home to Alabama changed his plans. While attending a class reunion in Auburn, he met Louisa Marcia Bondurant, whose father was a professor of agriculture at the University, and he decided to forgo Johns Hopkins in order to earn a living. Although he never attended medical school at Hopkins, Dr. Harrison returned each summer until 1905 to work with his friend Dr. Osler, who he often said "influenced his life more than any other single man."

Dr. Groce Harrison and Louisa Bondurant were married on 16 August 1896 in Auburn, Alabama. They soon purchased a home in the city of Talladega, where Harrison had recently established his practice in general medicine. The large house offered a home to the family and provided enough space for Dr. Harrison's office, clinic, and operating room. Harrison would practice in Talladega for ten years, and with his father would eventually open the city's first hospital. After a series of illnesses, brought on in part by repeated exposure to the elements while making medical rounds in his buggy, Harrison decided to retire from general practice and to enter the field of ear, eye, nose, and throat specialty.

He studied in Vienna from 1905 until 1906 and returned to Alabama to establish a practice in Birmingham. A man of many interests, from 1931 until 1941 Dr. Groce Harrison taught a weekly class in medical history at the original Vanderbilt medical school, making the weekly trip at his own expense. Dr. Harrison practiced medicine for a number of years in Birmingham and eventually served as the president of the Jefferson County Medical Society. He also served as president of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama from 1930 until 1931.

In 1910 Dr. and Mrs. Groce Harrison moved their family into a newly constructed home at 4142 Cliff Road. The house served as the home to the Harrisons for the remainder of their lives and, at their deaths, would be inherited by their eldest son, Dr. Tinsley R. Harrison. Groce and Louisa Harrison would eventually have a family consisting of five children: Emily Bondurant Harrison (Mrs. John Calvin Wilson), 1897-1938; Dr. Tinsley Randolph Harrison, 1900-1978; William Groce Harrison, Jr., 1902-1988; Louisa Dabney Harrison (Mrs. Walter Davis), 1907-1965; Alexander Bondurant Harrison, 1909-1926; and Sarah Elizabeth Harrison (Mrs. Arthur Merrill), 1912-1983.

Dr. W. Groce Harrison died in Birmingham on July 28, 1955. His wife had died on March 5, 1951.

Bibliographic Sources
Pittman, James A., Jr., "Tinsley R. Harrison, M.D.: Teacher and Paragon of Internal Medicine," MASA Review. 1997 Spring/Summer, p. 14-55.

Material in this collection (MC08).

Various other material found in the collections of the UAB Archives (MC003, MC007, MC51, 7.2.1, etc.)

Scope and Content Note
A spiral bound, typed transcript entitled "Memoirs of Dr. William Groce Harrison, Sr." The volume is undated, but was probably written later in Dr. Harrison's life. The "Memoirs" consist of sixty-five chapters in which Dr. Harrison outlines his youth, medical education, and experiences as a physician. In the "Memoirs," Dr. Harrison describes his parents and siblings. He also offers vivid descriptions of rural Alabama during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The "Memoirs" provide a valuable source of information about the Harrison family and about Dr. W. Groce Harrison's life.

One of Dr. Harrison's grandsons gave this item to Dr. James A. Pittman, Jr., dean of the School of Medicine. Dr. Pittman later presented it to the UAB Archives in 1993. The grandson executed a deed of gift for the item in June 2000 after consultation with other descendants of Dr. Groce Harrison. UAB owns the copyright and proprietary rights to this memoir.


This page created 1999 and last updated on 27 November 2007.

Copyright:  The University of Alabama Board of Trustees.