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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Frances Pauley, July 18, 1974. Interview G-0046. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Establishing a free health clinic during the Great Depression

Pauley describes her early involvement in issue of civil rights by way of her concern with healthcare. Here, she explains her role in the establishment of a free health clinic in Decatur, Georgia, during the 1930s. According to Pauley, there was no place for poor people, black or white, to go for free medical attention. Specifically, she focuses here on the issue of "separate but equal" in relationship to the health clinic. Pauley and the other founders wanted the clinic to be open to all patients, regardless of color, and for the most part it was, until a grand jury required them to put up a partition in the waiting room. Her work here foreshadowed her later involvement in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Frances Pauley, July 18, 1974. Interview G-0046. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

FRANCES PAULEY:
Because when I came into working in race relations, it wasn't any such thing in my mind as separate. And it never had been. I remember helping establish the Dekalb Clinic during the Depression . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Establish what?
FRANCES PAULEY:
The Dekalb Clinic. We didn't have any place in Dekalb County where someone could get free medical attention. And that was before the days of Hospital Authority or any hospital or medical services in Dekalb County. So we established a free clinic.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who was we?
FRANCES PAULEY:
Well, just a group of people . . . it wasn't any organization.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was it people that you had met in college, or younger people?
FRANCES PAULEY:
No, ah . . . well, just different people that I had known around Decatur that were interested, particularly in poor people. And, at that time, see, it was Depression . . . people were hungry and penniless. When we opened the clinic, we never thought about having two separate waiting rooms. We had one waiting room for black and white. All we were trying to get was enough doctors and enough help, and so forth.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Where did you get the money to open the clinic?
FRANCES PAULEY:
We raised it . . . begged it. I did a lot of fund-raising for it. And then the county began to help us, and the county began to give us more and more. And then we got other tie-ups with Atlanta hospitals which would give us an intern or two, and so gradually it grew.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When was that?
FRANCES PAULEY:
Oh, me . . . I don't remember when the Hospital Authority started, but it must have been the forties, or late forties. I really don't remember exactly. We didn't even think about segregation, except on the days that the Public Health came over. They had certain days for veneral disease clinics. They had certain days for black and certain days for white. We didn't have anthing to do with that. On the other days, the regular medical clinics, we just had one waiting room. And then one day the grand jury came over and made us put up a partition.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Really! Who called it to the attention of the grand jury?
FRANCES PAULEY:
I don't know. Well, I think it was just one of their routine checks. They checked on all the different medical facilities in the county, but they came over and they made us put up a partition in the waiting room, which was really just a great big old hallway. But we still didn't have any separate treatment facilities. We used the same examining rooms.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you happen to be concerned about health care for poor people?
FRANCES PAULEY:
I don't know. I guess just any human being would be.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You'd think so.
FRANCES PAULEY:
I had children, and it would have been terrible if I couldn't have taken them to a doctor when they were sick.