Nov. 29, 2018

Main Content

In Memoriam: Dr. Blair E. Batson

Dr. Blair E. Batson


Dr. Blair E. Batson, the first chair of pediatrics at UMMC, died Nov. 26. He was 98.

Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs, said Batson’s importance to the health of children in the state “cannot be underestimated.

“He truly is the father of organized pediatrics in Mississippi,” she said, “and the lives of countless children in our state have been touched through his work.

“What a wonderful legacy.”

Batson earned his B.A. and M.D. at Vanderbilt University, where he completed a residency in pediatrics. While an undergraduate, he was president of the student council and of his fraternity, Sigma Chi. He served as chief resident at Vanderbilt from 1949-50 and had a faculty appointment there from 1949-1952.

He completed a one-year residency at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and was on the faculty of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine from 1952-55. He also received a Master of Public Health degree from Johns Hopkins University.

He served in the U.S. Army during World War II and in the U.S. Army Medical Corps from 1946-48 in Giessen, Germany, as ward officer for contagious diseases and pediatrics for the 388th Station Hospital.

At 34, he was named chair of the Department of Pediatrics at UMMC just two months after the Medical Center opened its doors to patients in 1955. He officially retired in 1989, although he still taught for years afterward.

During his long career, he taught more than 3,500 medical students and 240 pediatric residents. Among those was the late Dr. Aaron Shirley, who, under Batson’s leadership, in 1965 became the first African-American learner in any program at UMMC.

Batson was honored often for his contributions to the health of children in Mississippi. He was the recipient of the 2000 Humanitarian of the Year tribute from the Epilepsy Foundation of Mississippi. In 1996, he was selected Vanderbilt’s Distinguished School of Medicine Alumnus of the Year. In 1995, he was inducted into the University of Mississippi Alumni Hall of Fame.

He also received awards for outstanding service from the March of Dimes, the National Easter Seal Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics District VII. He received an award for leadership and devotion to child health care from the Mississippi Academy of Pediatrics.

Batson was an examiner for the American Board of Pediatrics from 1963-90, a member of the executive board of the American Academy of Pediatrics from 1974-80 and president of the pediatric section of the Southern Medical Association.

In 1997, the new children’s hospital was named the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children in recognition of his lifetime contributions to the health of children in Mississippi.

A memorial service will take place in early 2019. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions be made to the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children, c/o the UMMC Office of Development, 2500 N. State St., Jackson, MS 39216 or Friends of Children’s Hospital, 3900 Lakeland Dr., Suite 205, Flowood, MS 39232.