Biographical Sketch of Dr. Joseph Williams Humphreys

January 4, 1875 – October 16, 1962


Joseph Williams Humphreys was born in Yell County, Arkansas on January 4, 1875 the son of a farmer, Joe Humphreys and wife, Hester. He was the oldest of six boys and one girl.


He married Cora Lee Gatlin. The couple had two children, a daughter, Jessie Ruth in 1906 and another daughter, Flora Lee in 1911. It was after he had a family that he went to medical school.


During this period of medical history, after ‘reading’ medicine with another doctor and going with him on sick calls a student could be recommended by the experienced doctor to register as a physician (M. D.). Dr. Humphreys probably did this and began practicing medicine at that time (known as Eclectic Medicine). When the law changed mandating formal medical education before registration as a doctor, Dr. Humphreys decided to attend medical school. He went to Kansas City College of Medicine and Surgery graduating in 1920 at age 45. He registered on November 20, 1920 with the Eclectic Board of Education in Arkansas claiming a Waldron, Arkansas address. He wanted to remain faithful to the old school traditions along with the newly learned standards.

(Where as the Eclectic Medical Doctor was an M. D. just as much as a

regular doctor during the 1800s once the final eclectic M. D. was

deceased, the right of some trained in medicine to apply these letters to

their name could only granted to be graduates of the regular schools.

The last eclectic school closed in Cincinnati in1938.)

Wikipedia, Eclectic Medicine


Dr. Humphreys’ first post-medical school practice began on was January 9, 1926 in Glendale, Leflore County, Oklahoma, which shared a border with Scott County, Arkansas. Then after a short time in the town of Wister, in 1933 he moved to Parks, Arkansas where he continued to practice medicine for about 30 years .


Dr Humphreys became a true member of the community and cared for Parks people for three decades. He rode horse back to make house calls and “could be seen at all hours of the day and night riding to help the sick folks of Parks”. * Later he bought a car but never learned to drive. A relative or neighbor drove him so he could continue to make house calls. “Doc was a legendary country doctor. Somehow people got word to Dr. Humphreys when he was needed.”** When a surgery was necessary it might be on the kitchen table. “He stayed all night if patients were very sick and needed him”***. He delivered babies, pulled teeth, doctored the sick and administered medication to his many patients. When he felt that patients needed hospital care he sent them to Fort Smith, in Sebastian County just north of Parks.


His office was in his house. Patients stayed over night if they were too sick to leave after an office visit. The front room had an old desk, a chair and an examining table. Shelves of medicine in bottles and jars of pills lined the walls. He was often was paid with vegetables or other produce.


Dr. Humphreys was well respected and beloved by the community. His picture was hung is the Memory Room at Parks School.


In late life a horse kicked Dr. Humphreys and broke his hip. This finally forced him into retirement. At age 87 Dr. Humphreys died at a local hospital on October 6, 1962. He practiced medicine (practice years before medical school is unknown) more than 42 years in Arkansas, 30 years in the community of Parks, (Scott County) Arkansas.


*Michael Cate, History of Scott County

** Ibid

*** Phone call with great granddaughter, Helen Hawkins


Betty L. Battenfield October 2019