Biographical Sketch of Dr. John Henry McCurry
November 16, 1873 – May 4, 1979
John Henry McCurry was born November 16, 1873 in Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee, the first child of the farming family of John Henry and Mary (Minor) McCurry. He was soon joined by three sisters, Texanna, Eula M. and Ida C., and brother T. Oaka. His father died when he was quite young. “After going through the Memphis common schools he was graduated in 1897 from the “Hospital Medical School”, now the University of Tennessee Medical School at Memphis.”1 In the 1900 U. S. Census his occupation was medical doctor and he was living in Grubbs, Jackson, Arkansas. He was licensed in 1903.
On September 23, 1900 he and Grubbs resident Cora Loftin were married in Jackson County. Their son, Saumuel Loftin McCurry was born November 7, 1901. Cora died July 9, 1902. Samuel died June 2, 1950. On June 29, 1904 John Henry and Bessie Scott of Pitts, Poinsett County were married in Jackson County. Bessie died August 1, 1905. On June 30, 1907 John Henry and Bertha Ann Barber of Gilkerson, Arkansas were married in Craighead County. Daughter Ruth was born May 21, 1908, Helen in 1909 and Alta June 1, 1914. Sons Harry December 18, 1917 and John Henry Jr. October 3, 1924. Bertha died May 26, 1937.
Dr. McCurry writes: “When I began the struggle in 1897, I went by horse or mule back, mud boat, train, velocipede, hand car or any way I could get to the patients, carrying saddlebags full of medicine. I did not write prescriptions. There was no drug store near for me to use”2 “He came to be known to his patients as the “saddlebag doctor”.3
“Dr. McCurry emphasizes that he made house calls. He made them day or night, and before he bought an automobile in 1914 he relied on his legs or a horse. When circumstances ganged up on him – for example when two women had babies on successive nights – he stayed awake for 48 hours at a stretch.”4
After practicing 27 years in Grubbs, Dr. McCurry moved to Cash in Craighead County, a distance of approximately 15 miles. He was the town doctor in Cash until his retirement in 1968, ending 70 years of 12-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week schedule and of being the only family physician for 30 miles in all directions.
Asked how many babies he thought he had delivered during his long practice, his answer was “Well, most people say there were about 3,000. But I call the figure 3,001. I know there were more than 3,000.”5
“For many years, Dr. McCurry was secretary of the Craighead-Poinsett Medical Society, and he was active in the Arkansas Medical Society and the American Medical Society. He was honored by all three groups for his many years of medical practice and was active in the “50 Year Clubs” of all three organizations.”6
Dr. McCurry retired in 1968 at the age of 95 and moved from Arkansas to St. Louis with some reluctance to live with his three daughters. He died May 4, 1979 and was returned to Arkansas. He is buried in Ballews Chapel Cemetery, Gubbbs, Jackson County, Arkansas.
1 “DOCTOR McCURRY OF CASH, ARKANSAS” By Charles A. Stuck: The Craighead County Historical Quarterly, Volume II, Spring – 1964, Number 2, pp 24-27
2 “John Henry McCurry” by James Logan Morgan: The Stream of History Vol. XV October 1977 No. 4, pp 20-23
3”105-year-old doctor has right Rx for life” St. Louis Globe Democrat (St Louis, Missouri) 17 Nov, 1977
4 “South Sider’s Dreams At 99 Are Of Days As Country Doctor”: St. Louis Post Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) Nov 15, 1972, Page 95
5 “DOCTOR McCURRY OF CASH, ARKANSAS” By Charles A. Stuck: The Craighead County Historical Quarterly, Volume II, Spring – 1964, Number 2, pp 24-27
6Dr. McCurry Dies At Age 106”, Jonesboro Sun, May 6, 1979
John T. Mitchell, BBA
October 15, 2022