My grandfather, Dr. John Aaron Moore was affectionately known in South Arkansas as “Dr. JA.” He was a pioneer practitioner in family medicine and was also involved in many civic and spiritual endeavors in a rapidly growing town which was fueled by the oil boom of the 1920’s. When the Busey Well # 1 was completed in January, 1921, it marked the beginning of a population and financial boom for the area. Almost overnight El Dorado grew from a small agricultural town of four thousand to over forty thousand residents. Granddad and Deeji had moved to El Dorado from Dexter, New Mexico in 1912. They had formerly lived in South Arkansas where he practiced medicine in Lisbon, a small community west of El Dorado. While living in Lisbon for 12 years they had three children; John Walter (Uncle Walter): Lilly Mae (Aunt Mae); and Berry Lee (Pop). In 1910 he contracted tuberculosis and was advised to move to a warmer climate, so they moved to New Mexico where he was able to recover. When they moved to El Dorado to begin his new medical practice they built their home at 317 N. Jackson which was 4 blocks from the downtown square. At the time of their move Pop was ten years old.
As an early settler in El Dorado Granddad was a major stockholder in two banks; the National Bank of Commerce and the First National Bank. He was one of the founders and staff members of Warner Brown Hospital which opened in 1921 and later served as the Chief of Staff for several terms. He was very active in the Masonic Order when they lived in Lisbon and was chairman of the board which built the Masonic Temple in El Dorado in 1924. Granddad’s office was in the Masonic Temple building on the second floor and remained the office site for 3 generations of Moore physicians until Dr.Berry Lee Jr. (Bubba) built his office on Grove Street in 1967. By this time both Granddad and Pop had departed this life.
Granddad and Deeji were very active members of First Baptist Church where he served as a deacon from 1912 until his death in 1943. All of their children were baptised there and received their early spiritual training through the Sunday school and the Baptist Young People’s Union (BYPU), which was the name given to the Sunday evening training organization. Pop told me behind the scenes all the boys in the church referred to BYPU as “Button Your Pants Up.” As the largest and most highly visible church in downtown El Dorado First Baptist was a spiritual leader in the rapidly growing boom town. Important decisions affecting the spiritual lives and growth of many were being made regularly. Years later one of the long-time members and deacons at First Baptist told me when he was a young man and a fledgling member and deacon, whenever there was a business meeting and an important vote taken on any particular issue; he would “look to see how old Dr. JA voted and vote exactly as he did.” Granddad’s wisdom and spiritual discernment were well-recognized.
Granddad’s personality and demeanor were that of a dignified professional. Although friendly he did not have an out-going personality and was never heard telling a joke or a funny story from his life experiences. Whenever seen in public and even while making house calls late at night Granddad was fully and immaculately dressed in coat and tie and had his gold pocket watch in his vest pocket with the gold chain openly displayed. His older son (Uncle Walter) had a similar personality, but his younger son (Pop) was just the opposite. Pop was outgoing, openly friendly, talkative and always had a funny story or joke to tell. Pop was usually the life of every party, and he loved both life and parties.
When Pop graduated from the University of Arkansas Medical School in 1932, he decided Charity Hospital in New Orleans was the best place to continue training as an intern, and the city of New Orleans, known as “The Big Easy” suited his personality well. When not on duty at the hospital he and our mother (Mimi) frequented a place in the French Quarters known as The Fireman’s Band. It was partly owned by a fellow intern at Charity Hospital, and the typical customers were married couples who enjoyed the atmosphere of Dixieland music, jokes, laughter and the serving of adult beverages. It was not a place which Granddad approved, but he accepted the fact he and his physician son had differing views on entertainment and drinking alcoholic beverages. I’m certain my Pop never drank an alcoholic beverage in front of his Dad.
After Pop and Mimi had lived in New Orleans for about 6 months Granddad decided he needed to visit them to determine for himself the quality of training his son was receiving at Charity Hospital. He was also interested in seeing his only grandchild, Berry Lee Jr. (Bubba), who was five years old. Granddad rode the train because Deeji was not able to accompany him, and the drive from El Dorado by auto in those days took over ten hours.
Pop took Granddad on a grand tour of the hospital, and was able to introduce him to many of the distinguished faculty responsible for intern training. Granddad told him he was very impressed with the level of training he was receiving and gave his hearty approval. Pop thought the visit would not be complete without a tour of the French Quarters and also The Fireman’s Band. Pop said his Dad was very quiet during this portion of his visit and had very few comments and no questions
Upon Granddad’s return to El Dorado he was speaking with his pastor at First Baptist, Dr. John Buchanan and was asked, “Dr. JA, how did you find New Orleans?” According to Pop Granddad never cracked a smile when he responded to the question. ” Dr. Buchanan the devil is loose in New Orleans!” Despite the fact Pop loved living there and receiving such excellent training in Charity Hospital I am confident Granddad was greatly relieved when two years later Pop finally delivered Mimi and Bubba from the influence of the devil in New Orleans. He brought them to a much safer El Dorado to begin their life and medical practice there. Granddad did return to New Orleans once more for a post-graduate medical course, but I know he never once set foot in the French Quarters!
As the fourth generation of Moore physicians, we are proud to carry on the fine tradition of caring and service…
James Berry MD
David Berry MD
Thanks James. As part of the history of the Moore’s moving in the 1840’s from Alabama to settle in Union County, and the 3 generations that practiced medicine there from 1898 to 2002, I have a section on the family that continues to practice outside of Arkansas (Nashville and Austin). I’m very proud of the quality of caring and the character that you and your brothers exhibit. One day I’ll have all this in book form if I can keep remembering. 🙂