During 1958-85, almost everyone in Liberty and Long counties knew the name of Dr. Whitman Fraser.
Fraser was born in 1926 in Wichita Falls, Texas. Not long after, his father died from a heart attack when Whit was 5.
Whit married Mary Lou Snead, also from Texas, in 1951. They had two daughters, Sherry and Mary, and one son, Clint. After graduating from medical school, he decided to come to Hinesville to practice medicine, as it was the birthplace of his grandfather and he still had many cousins here. He wanted to explore the roots of his ancestry.
Also, he didn’t want to stay in his hometown and be called “Little Whit.”
When he came in 1958 and set up his practice, he was promised that a hospital would be built, which it was in the next couple of years. He just had to walk out the back door of his office to the hospital.
Dr. Fraser delivered more than 3,000 babies in Hinesville during his practice. One of them was my son, Bruce, in 1972. Actually, he did not deliver him, as I had been in labor all night and Bruce came before the doctor arrived at 6:30 in the morning.
Dr. Fraser asked me, “Why did you get in such a hurry? My, look at those big feet. It looks as if he is wearing snowshoes.”
Another time, while my first husband was in the hospital, Fraser sat on his hospital bed, smoking a cigarette, and said, “Harlon, you really should quit smoking, son. It is not good for you. Don’t do as I’m doing, do as I say.”
Dr. Fraser listened to his patients and often prayed with them. He went on house calls, which was unheard-of in 1958, and treated patients even if they could not pay with cash. Many times, he received fish, shrimp, fruit, vegetables and even homemade furniture for payment.
He was a great leader in the First Presbyterian Church in Hinesville and the spiritual community at large. He often was introduced as the Rev. Dr. Fraser when he spoke for civic organizations or at spiritual functions. He didn’t get into politics, but was involved in almost everything else in the community.
Dr. Fraser had a distinctive laugh; humor was an important part of his medical care.
In the his later years, Fraser got involved with cardiology and let someone else deliver the babies. The Hinesville City Council declared a week in May 1980 to honor the local beloved doctor with a parade on Saturday. As many children as could who were delivered by him were asked to ride in the parade on floats. Bruce rode on one.
Dr. Fraser retired from practicing medicine in 1985 after serving 27 years in Hinesville.
Even though retired, he never quit serving his community.
Shortly after his wife died in 1985 at the young age of 53, Dr. Fraser established the Mary Lou Foundation for Families and a Life Ministries Center in her memory. A second Mary Lou Fraser Community Support Foundation was set up in 1990.
Out of this, a lasting tribute to these beloved people were an indoor pool and a recreation facility for the YMCA and a counseling center next door to each other. The facilities were dedicated in 1996.
Dr. Fraser did not live to see his dream completed, as he died in 1995 at the age of 69. Within both structures, the dreams of these two people who did so much for the people in Liberty and surrounding counties still live.
There are hundreds of stories that could be told about Dr. Fraser. The above is just the tip of the iceberg. Many of the facts I gathered from the Liberty Memorial Hospital page, but by our family of five having been patients of his over a 20-year span and living in the community, I knew much about him first hand. I do know that when I went to him, I always felt better when I left — even if I still had my aches or pains. He was a great comforter.
While I was working with the Liberty County Board of Education in 1981, Fraser spoke at one of our workshops on the subject of stress. In my next article, I will share what this wise man had to say. It applies to all of us today, just as it did 33 years ago.