Ralph Block Hamilton was born December 14, 1906 in Wynne, the county seat and largest city in Cross County, Arkansas. His parents were Bedford Forrest and Gertrude Hamilton. Ralph was introduced to the field of medicine at an early age as his father was the owner and manager of the only drug store in Wynne. Intending to follow in his father’s footsteps as a druggist, ralph enrolled in Southwestern at Memphis followed by a year at Tulane University in New Orleans, then an enrollment at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. In 1934 he received his Doctor in Medicine degree from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock. After interning for a year at Mercer Hospital in Trenton, New Jersey, Doctor Hamilton returned to Arkansas where he was chief medical officer for a Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps camp at Forrest City. In 1936 he established a medical practice in West Memphis.
In the early days Dr. Hamilton and his medical partner, Dr. Glen Schoettle, used an old army Jeep to make house calls for their busy country practice. He was the first chief-of-staff at Crittenden Memorial Hospital and served as team doctor of the West Memphis High School Blue Devils for forty years. The football stadium is now named Hamilton-Shultz Field in his and former superintendent O.M. Shultz honor. He was selected West Memphis Man of the Year in 1950 and in 1984 he was named by the West Memphis Chamber of Commerce as its Citizen of the Year. During this time in 1984 the Ralph Hamilton Scholarship Fund was established in his honor to help county youngsters aspiring to careers in the medical field. He served as president of the Crittenden County Medical Society and was a member of the Fifty Year Club of the Arkansas Medical Association. Throughout his adult life Dr. Hamilton was a very active member of First United Methodist Church in West Memphis. The Ralph B. Hamilton Education Building remains to this day a living testament to his faith in God and his love for his fellow man***.
Leven and Mary Williams, life-long residents of Crittenden County, both recall memories of Dr. Hamilton and the care he provided. From the sucker provided at each office visit to the more serious changing of dressings from burn injuries, Dr. Hamilton managed to find time after office hours to telephone and see how his patients were doing. It was often said Dr. Hamilton was color blind, as a person’s race made no difference.* There was hardly a person in Crittenden County not touched in some way by this man who cared for thousands of people. His calling to check on patients, writing of prescriptions at ball games or on the golf course, or looking at sore throats at church will long be remembered in this community. He was also well-known for his mischievous sense of humor. If a patient was unable to pay his medical bill it did not matter to Dr. Hamilton, payment was as frequently in the form of fresh produce as it was in cash, if there was payment at all. As Dr. Hamilton often said “don’t worry about it”.**
Dr. Hamilton passed away on July 31, 1991 at the age of 84. He had served as a general practitioner in Crittenden County for 54 years. He was laid to rest in Crittenden Memorial Park in Marion, AR.
*Telephone Interview, Mary Williams, Marion, AR
**Telephone Interview, Ralph B. Williams, Jr., Cordova, TN
***First United Methodist Church, 215 North Missouri, West Memphis, AR, Volume XV111 Number 13 August 14, 1991
John T. Mitchell, BSBA, May 18, 2019