Byron Eugene Holmes was born March 2, 1926 in Little Rock, Arkansas, the son of Rev. and Mrs. Otis Elbert Holmes.  The Reverend had been an educator in Tennessee before entering the ministry as Methodist ministers often do, he moved several times during young Byron Eugene’s childhood.  Reverend Holmes was known for rebuilding struggling churches.  The family was in Lonoke, AR when Eugene graduated from high school in 1943.  He was 17 years old.

The United States had entered WWII.  Thus the following year, on his eighteenth birthday, Eugene registered at the local U.S. draft board.  He received a 1-A notice indicating immediate military assignment.  However, because he immediately entered college the draft board changed his status to 2-A and later to 4-F, the least likely military draftee status as he declared a pre-med major.  While at the University of Arkansas he worked at a Fayetteville drugstore to help pay his tuition and expenses.

In war time the curriculum was condensed to allow needed physicians to complete training with two years of college and two years of medical school.  Only the study and dedicated survived the fast pace.  Dr. Holmes succeeded and graduated from the University of Arkansas School of Medicine in 1948.  He was twenty-one years old.  This led to his Internship at University Hospital and Baptist Hospital in Little Rock, his Residency at Charity Hospital in Louisiana and finally two years in the U. S. Army, served in El Paso, Texas.

He returned home to Lonoke (town of about 1500) in 1950 to set up a practice that lasted until 2011, a sixty-one year span.  He finally retired at age eighty-six.

Dr. Holmes was a family man.  It began because the Methodist Church was next to the {Presbyterian Church.  In high school he met Gladys Willman who attended the Presbyterian church next door to his father’s Methodist church.  Yet it was time for college so he left Lonoke for the U of A.  Two years later, 1946, he returned to Lonoke and married Gladys.  She worked as a secretary to help pay his expenses through medical school and worked with him in his office for many years thereafter.  The couple had four children, Byron Eugene Jr., Amelia, Lee D. and John Willman, who died in 2006.  Gladys died in 2016 just after the couples 70th Wedding Anniversary.

Dr. Holmes was known for his late night house calls, weekend home visits and nursing home visits.  At the First Presbyterian Church (where he served as an elder) he sat near the back to take telephone calls if needs arose.  One of his patients wrote “Dr. Holmes was much more than an ordinary doctor, he was one of the most caring, concerned, confident, never in a hurry, of his kind.  He was interested in more than your physical condition, and had a way [of] calming your concerns about body, mind and spirit.  I would almost feel guilty taking up too much of his time, talking with him, knowing he loved his work, his patients and treated everyone with the same compassion.”* Another patient wrote, “Dr. Holmes was a man with a hear like God.  As a kid growing up in a black neighborhood never once saw the doctor worried about being harmed.  He would come right on in, speak and call everyone by name and get right to the job—–God gave you a vision and I feel you fulfill it with pride and joy and never thought twice about money and people’s tax status.  Thank you again for your love for the people.”* 

Community service was an integral part of Dr. Holmes life.  He was a life-time member of the American Legion and member of the Kiwanis Club.  He served on the Lonoke School Board for twenty-one years, on the Lonoke City Council for twenty-five years.  Earlier he had been the Lonoke County health officer and the county coroner.  In 1982 the Lonoke Chamber of Commerce named Dr. Homes “Man of the Year” and in 2002 recognized him with its Lifetime Achievement Award.  That same year he received a Presidential Citation for his community service.  Two major certificates were received by Dr. Holmes in 2013:  The Arkansas House of Representatives awarded a Citation to Dr. Holmes and included Gladys Holmes, The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences awarded Dr. Holmes a certificate honoring his sixty five years of dedicated practice.  He held years of membership in the Lonoke Medical Society, the Arkansas State Medical Society and the American Medical Society.

At age ninety, Dr. Holmes died on October 2, 2016.  For sixty-five years he had practiced his beloved profession.  Burial was in Lonoke.

*Delta Dreaming: Country Doctors-wattensawpress/2014/09/20/delta-dreaming-country-doctor/

B. L. Battenfield  June 17, 2017