Dr. Benjamin Judson Simmons was the first black physician in Milledgeville, Georgia.
Simmons was born on October 16, 1870, in Dublin, GA. Simmons grew up during a time when it very difficult for blacks to get a good education in the South. However, that did not stop Simmons from dedicating his life to getting a good education and ultimately becoming the first black doctor in Milledgeville.
Simmons attended Ballard’s Normal School and went on to George State Industrial School in Savannah. He became interested in medicine because many members of his family suffered from poor health.
To attend Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn., Simmons walked from Dublin to Nashville. The distance from Milledgeville to Nashville is about 346 miles on modern roads. A walk that would take a person 5 days if they did not stop to rest and kept up a steady pace. Simmons not only made the trip once, but he walked quite a bit to go back attend his home church.
It is believed that Simmons graduated from medical school either in 1892 or 1897. What is certain is that Simmons set up his clinic in Milledgeville in 1897, thus becoming the city’s first black doctor. While Simmons stayed out of politics and mostly served the black community, he became very wealthy and was highly regarded in Milledgeville. Many white physicians praised Simmons’ medical knowledge, and he was well known as a great diagnostician.
Unfortunately, Simmons died relatively young, on January 14, 1910, The Milledgeville News, announced his death caused by an illness that lingered for several months.