Continuing our series on health care heroes, today, we’re talking about Dr. Fred T. Jones, a pioneer in providing insurance and medical care to the Black community in Arkansas and Louisiana. He was born on September 8, 1877, in Homer, Louisiana. His creation of the “hospital plan” and his dedication to providing medical care to Black citizens in Little Rock, despite threats of violence, prove his highly regarded status as a health care hero in Arkansas.
Dr. Fred T. Jones always sought to improve the lives of the Black community around him. Through establishing local hospitals and an innovative hospital insurance plan, he impacted the lives of many throughout Little Rock.
Dr. Jones graduated from Arkansas Branch Normal College (now known as the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff) between 1900 and 1904 according to multiple sources. Jones received his medical degree from Meharry Medical College in 1905. Despite his hard work to receive this degree, Jones was not allowed to practice medicine in his hometown of Homer, so he moved to Shreveport, Louisiana. He later founded the Mercy Sanitarium in 1915.
Jones later moved with his family to Little Rock, where he established the Booker T. Washington Memorial Hospital in 1918. In 1919, Jones also established the Great Southern Fraternal Hospital in Little Rock. Located in the predominantly Black area of Little Rock, this hospital provided medical care for members of two Black fraternal organizations: the United Friends of America and the Independent Order of Immaculates. The Great Southern Fraternal Hospital stayed open until 1929.
Dr. Fred Jones' Great Fraternal Southern Hospital, seen in the advertisement above, was deemed by many to be "the most modern, best equipped, and leading hospital" for the Black community in the south.
In his time as a physician, Dr. Jones promoted a “hospital plan,” which was an insurance plan where patients could pay monthly fees to offset future hospital expenses. In 1920, he copyrighted this plan as the “Fraternal, Benevolent, Charity and Hospital Plan,” a name that mirrored his dream of affordable health care for Black Americans. His hospital plan proved to be very successful. Dr. Jones also organized the Great Southern Mutual Life Insurance Company, where he served as medical director, even after it was bought out by a larger company years later.
The above column in the newspaper details the "hospital plan" that Dr. Jones set up. By subscribing this plan, patients recieved one year of hospital treatment, nursing, room and board, and major and minor operations, including dental treatments.
Dr. Jones was also involved in forming many fraternities and investment companies, including the Great Sothern Fraternal Union (consisting of over 21,000 individuals) and the Great Southern Investment Company, which raised money to help black farmers and property owners in Arkansas. Jones continued to provide health care to the area’s Black citizens, despite threats of violence in the area. After the Great Fraternal Hospital in Little Rock closed down, he established the Great Southern Hospital in Pine Bluff in 1932. However, after a year and around 200 successful operations there, the violence in the surrounding area caused him to return to Little Rock. Just a few miles away, Jones organized the Southern Hospital Association in North Little Rock, where he served as the chief surgeon. He and his son also operated Jones Brothers Laboratory, which manufactured and distributed prescription medications in the area.
Dr. Jones’s impact spread throughout Little Rock as he continued being an active part of the city's medical, civic, business, and religious affairs. He served as president of the Arkansas Medical, Dental and Pharmaceutical Association in 1934 and was an officer of the National Medical Association. Jones never stopped serving the community in Arkansas. Though he died in 1938, he is still recognized for his dedication to improving the health of the community around him. His influence is still felt today in the medical community.
Pictures courtesy of Encyclopedia of Arkansas.
Research and inspiration for this blog post came from former AFMC CEO Ray Hanley.