Dr. Herschell Lee Hamilton became known as the “Battle Surgeon” and the “Dog-Bite Doctor,” because he attended to foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham, Alabama. No patient was ever turned away from Hamilton’s office because of an inability to pay. His most famous patients included Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth.
Born in 1925 in Pensacola, Florida, Hamilton served his country in the Army Air Corps from 1943 to 1946. He attended and graduated from Florida A&M University in 1949 with a degree in biology and received his Medical Degree form Meharry Medical College in Nashville in 1954. He then completed a general surgery residency at Homer G. Phillips Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. He moved to Birmingham in 1959 becoming the first African American board-certified general surgeon in the city. In 1968, Hamilton became the first African American board-certified general surgeon at University Hospital in Birmingham.
Hamilton was an active participant in the Mineral District Medical Society, the National Medical Association, the Meharry and Florida A&M alumni associations, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, and the Board of Deacons of Sixth Avenue Baptist Church. Hamilton died in 2003.
His alma mater, Florida A&M University, established The Herschell L. Hamilton, MD Scholarship to assist deserving high school seniors from the Greater Birmingham area who attend Florida A&M University. In June 2013, The University of Alabama System Board of Trustees approved the establishment of the Herschell Lee Hamilton, M.D., Endowed Scholarship in Medicine.