James Arthur Foltz was born in Memphis, Tennessee, son of Jacob and Mary Rathell Foltz on March 24, 1878. His father served as Captain with the Federal Army. After hostilities ended James married Mary Rathell the daughter of a Colonel in the defeated Rebels.
On the 24th of March in 1878, James Arthur was born. When he was three years old the family moved from Memphis to Fort Smith, Arkansas where he attended public school. In his teen years he served as Sargent during the Spanish American campaign. Released from active duty he entered Tulane University Medical School. An excellent student, Dr. Foltz graduated about 1894 or 1895 (valedictorian of his class as well as its president). His post-graduate work was at Harvard University, then at New York Medical College for courses in Surgery.
Dr. Foltz returned to Arkansas. At 24 years of age he married Janie Price on Nov. 5, 1902. The couple had four sons and one daughter, James Arthur Jr., Dr. Thomas P. (who practiced with his father), and twins, Emily Jane and Edwin J. In 1918 he registered for the draft but was not called to serve.
Dr. Foltz was active in his profession: was a Charter Member of the American College of Surgeons; was president of the County Medical Society and delegate to the National Medical Society numerous times; in 1931 he was Arkansas Representative to the Conference on Medical Economics; he organized the Western Hospital Association.
In 1921 before the days of antibiotics, he was cut while in surgery. Infection ensued. With great effort he overcame it and returned to surgery again.
Dr. Foltz was highly successful, respected and well liked as a surgeon. He was Chief of Staff at Sparks Hospital for many years; chief of Surgery at Sparks; served on the board to reorganize the hospital for African Americans; he lectured on anatomy at Sparks Hospital School of Nursing and at St. Edwards School of Nursing. He gave himself fully to any task at hand.
Dr. Foltz’ interest were versatile and numerous. He was a member and past president of the Lions Club, a Director of the Chamber of Commerce, member of the Board of Health and was a school board member.
During the tuberculosis peak in Arkansas in the late 1800s – 1930, probably one of the greatest civic contributions Dr. Foltz made was a Mason. He chaired a committee that conducted a Masonic state-wide drive to build a $94,000 children’s home at the Arkansas Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Booneville. They “accomplished the task in 3 years and turned over the building free of debt to the State”.*
Dr. Foltz kept a scrapbook of philosophic saying, poetry, mottoes and inspirational quoted. He lived by them, caring for his patients based on his Love of all men.
His apparent philosophy of life was expressed in a quote from his scrapbook, “The mintage of Wisdom is to know that rest is rust, and that Real Life lies in Love, Laughter, and Work”** These virtues encompassed his life. “He was a radiant personality, combining rare ability in his profession with deep love of beauty and personal charm” (from eulogy by C.F. Burns).
Dr. Foltz died of heart disease in his home in Fort Smith on May 22, 1937 at 59 years of age. His internment was at Forest Park Cemetery in Fort Smith. He had served Sebastian County as a concerned physician for 35 years. He left a legacy of loving service to the people.
*Physicians and Medicine Crawford and Sebastian Counties, Arkansas 1817 – 1976. Published by Sebastian County Medical Society
Betty L. Battenfield, July 2019