What an incredible surprise it was when Elaine Moore contacted me about her husband Dr. Pierce Jones Moore, Jr., who is turning 100 years old on March 12. Elaine wanted to see if anyone from Dr. Moore’s time at Lawson General Hospital could be located.
The World War II hospital was in Chamblee, next door to Naval Air Station Atlanta. It’s where the IRS and CDC Chamblee Campus are today. The hospital was known for treating patients whose injuries often resulted in amputations.
Dr. Moore, known to many as Dr. P. J. Moore, Jr., was born in Spartanburg, S.C., in 1920. He attended Loma Linda University School of Medicine in Southern California.
“I graduated from there in December of 1943,” Dr. Moore explained. “I was 23 years old when I got my medical degree. The reason we graduated in December was because during the war they shortened the period of study. We missed two summer vacations of three months.”
The entire senior class was drafted into the military.
The next stop for Dr. Moore was Georgia Baptist Hospital in Atlanta for a nine-month internship. While at Georgia Baptist, Dr. Moore played baseball with and against professional baseball players, such as Luke Appling of the Chicago White Sox, Johnny Pesky of the Boston Red Sox, Dick Dodgen of the Atlanta Crackers, and Bill Perrin of the Cleveland Indians.
Next, he was sent to Gardiner Army Hospital in Chicago for six weeks, followed by six weeks at the Army Field Service School in Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, where he joined 1,200 other medical school graduates. It was an extremely cold winter, and Dr. Moore recalls wearing multiple layers of clothing for outdoor training.
Many of the medical students were not in the best physical condition and had difficulty with the marching, drills and push-ups that were part of the training. Dr. Moore remembers one day in particular, “they had us doing push-ups and the drill sergeant was counting 1, 2, 3, on up to 37, 38, and then by 39, I was the only one still going. That was all I could do.”
Following Army Field Service School, Dr. Moore went to Camp Wheeler in Macon for three weeks. He examined recruits but also took care of patients with injuries following their boxing bouts.
Dr. Moore arrived at Lawson General Hospital in January of 1945.
“I was re-amputating soldiers coming from the Battle of the Bulge and the European Theatre,” he recalled. “I had a ward of 34 beds kept full. We had five or six surgeons at Lawson.”
He performed surgeries ever day, usually with only Saturday and Sunday off.
After they healed, patients were fitted with prosthetics and taught how to use their prosthesis in daily life. Helping patients learn how to return to their families and get on with their lives was an important mission at Lawson. Former patients returned to the hospital to show new patients their successes. Dr. Moore showed the men that they could play golf despite their injuries.
While at Lawson, Dr. Moore was busy with his work and lived in the barracks. Golf was a form of weekend recreation, and he played with two professional golfers and Luke Appling, all who had been called to duty at Lawson General Hospital. They played at the Fort McPherson, North Fulton, Druid Hills Country Club and Bobby Jones golf courses.
In December of 1945, Dr. Moore was sent to the 161st General Army Hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico. There, he met and later married Dora Deanne Crumley, a nurse who came to the hospital from Ohio. They married in 1947, the same year that he served as a surgical resident at Grady Hospital. They were married 57 years until she passed away in 2003.
Dr. Moore was the chief surgical resident at Spartanburg General Hospital in 1948. He and his wife Dee opened a private practice in Pickens, S.C., in 1949. In 1953, he moved to Hendersonville, N.C., where he helped bring back the Mountain Sanitarium, later changed to Fletcher Hospital and Fletcher Academy.
Through the years, he never turned anyone away for lack of money or insurance. During the 1950s, his fees were $2 for office visits and $3 for house calls. Dr. Moore said he performed 30,000 surgeries and delivered over a thousand babies.
He retired from medicine in 2016 at the age of 96, at which time he was the oldest active surgeon in North Carolina.
He married Elaine, a nurse from Murphy, N.C. 12 years ago. They divide their time between North Carolina and Florida. Elaine has planned a big birthday party with family, friends and people who have known Dr. Moore through his long, distinguished career.