Tue, Aug 28, 2018 at 08:00 AM
Earl Hedgepeth recalls the excitement the new hospital created for the local Sand Mountain community.
When Earl Hedgepeth visits Marshall Medical South, it brings back memories from more than 50 years ago when he farmed that same spot of land as a teenager.
“I grew cotton and corn on 12 to 15 acres right here on the campus and all the way down to the creek,” he recalls. “Nothing was developed down this way until you got to downtown.”
That was in 1952, just before the stunning announcement that the acreage had been purchased for a new hospital.
“People were tickled to death when they heard a hospital was being built,” Hedgepeth remembered.
At the time, the only medical care closer than the hospitals in Gadsden and Guntersville were two small clinics in Albertville and Boaz. The two cities had long debated over the best location of a hospital, but finally agreed on Boaz. The Marshall County Health Care Authority purchased that property and more from the founding Wells family*.
Over the next three years, the plot was transformed from pastures, rows of crops and a gravel road to a modern hospital and a two-lane paved road leading to Guntersville. Before that, the main route was Alabama 205.
“What took so long was the mountains on each end,” Hedgepeth said. “The highway and the hospital grew up together.”
At the time, doctors were practicing medicine in Boaz were Dr. Marston Hunt, Dr. H. E. Barker and former postmaster Dr. Luther Corley. They were very supportive of a new hospital, and soon went to work there.
“They were tickled to heaven,” he said.
A pharmacy near the hospital was also purchased and the pharmacist went to work for the hospital.
Hedgepeth graduated from Boaz High School in 1952, the same year he started farming the rented property. He clearly recalls the details of the land at that time. A big spring called Slab Creek on the property that still runs between the hospital and the parking lot recently caused a lot of headaches for workers while improving entrance to the hospital from Highway 431. Hedegpeth also recalled a huge rock quarry behind the hospital and just across from the spot where TherapyPlus sits. Workers quarried large flat rocks that Hedgepeth still sees occasionally on houses in the area.
“It was the biggest in the county,” he remembered, estimating the quarry reached 50-60 feet deep before it was eventually filled in.
The hospital opened April 24, 1956, as the Boaz-Albertville Hospital with 35 beds and 35 employees. The open house drew a packed crowd to see the brand new medical facility.
Hedgepeth’s connection to his old farm plot continued through the years. The first administrator, Paul Hodges, lived just across the street from Hedgepeth. Another administrator who followed in 1979, Marlin Hanson, had grown up with Hedgepeth and graduated from high school the same year. Hedgepeth’s son Roger played basketball with Gary Gore, who graduated from Albertville High School in 1979 and has served as administrator then CEO of Marshall Medical Centers for the past 29 years.
Roger Hedgepeth went on to play basketball at Snead State Community College and is now a State Farm insurance agent in Crossville. His son and Hedgepeth’s grandson, Mick, grew to be 6 feet 10 inches tall, making a fine basketball player. He attended Belmont University in Nashville, played pro-ball in Europe and now is head men’s basketball coach at Sewanee, the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn. His grandfather proudly wears a T-shirt supporting the Sewanee Tigers.
Following his stint as a farmer, Hedgepeth went on to oversee Lee manufacturing plants. When he retired in 1997, his area of responsibility included plants in Alabama, North Caroline and Texas in the U.S., as well as plants in Costa Rica and Mexico. Now 84, Hedgepeth lives with his wife Boots in Albertville.
* For more history about the location of Marshall South read this blog post about the Wells family that homesteaded the property here https://www.mmcenters.com/blog...