For the past several days, your Time Traveler has become somewhat of a “Rhodes Scholar” of sorts — that is, a detective on the trail of the legendary Horn Lake physician Dr. J.A. Rhodes.
“I was named after him,” said Horn Lake Mayor Allen Latimer, who takes his given name from Dr. Rhodes’ middle name. ”I have his old rolltop desk. His wife, Mrs. Rhodes, gave it to me.”
Dr. Rhodes was born on Aug. 24, 1872 and died on May 31, 1940. His wife Margaret P. Rhodes and members of their family, including son Dr. Ralph A. Rhodes, who was born in 1903 and died in 1928, are all buried in historic Edmondson Cemetery, one of DeSoto County’s oldest cemeteries, located just off Interstate 55 in Southaven.
The family lived in the downtown portion of old Horn Lake, near the railroad tracks, not far from where a memorial marker honoring blues legend Big Walter Horton stands.
“I’ll tell you a funny story,” said Latimer who served as a pallbearer at Mrs. Rhodes’ funeral, along with his good friend, Roe Ross, in the 1980s. “Mrs. Rhodes said her first day in Horn Lake was a memorable one. Horn Lake used to be known as a really rough place. The family home was located near the railroad tracks and there was all kind of commotion all night long. She said if she lived until dawn, she would get in a buggy and get back home, or wherever she had come from.”
Latimer said the old Dr. Rhodes’ home still exists and is owned by local resident Bobby Black.
Latimer said Mrs. Rhodes spent her final days in a nursing home facility in Arkansas. Other Rhodes family members are scattered around the Mid-South and nation.
The Rhodes family home near the railroad tracks served as a clinic. Families and their children visited the home and adjoining clinic on a regular basis . It was in that home where Dr. Rhodes and later his son, Dr. Ralph A. Rhodes, treated a whole host of maladies from rheumatic fever to whooping cough.
In the 1928 edition of the Times-Promoter newspaper, the forerunner to this newspaper, Dr. F. J. Underwood, the state health officer, paid tribute to Rhodes and other physicians of the day in a letter that he urged be published in all the state’s newspapers.
It is condensed and paraphrased (as needed) here in this space: “He has no hour he can call his own; neither parlor, dining room, bed chamber, church, nor theater, which is exempt from the imperative call. The darker the night, the more howling the storm, the more likely he is to be needed. He must bear all temperatures, sweating in August suns and freezing in December blasts; drowned by the rain and choked by the dust; he must trudge here and there, often hungry at noon and sleepy at midnight. He must be with his patients in all seasons, in sorrow and joy, in death and recovery. The physician is in continual peril, when like a relentless and wild tornado, the swift, gaunt, ghostly withering epidemics of yellow fever, plague, smallpox, typhoid, diphtheria and influenza must pass before he is out of danger. Every true physician deserves a far greater honor than he typically receives.”
Dr. Rhodes and his son no doubt touched a great many lives during their family practice in Horn Lake.
Other physicians have been critical to the success, growth and development of DeSoto County.
Coming next week, the influential physician Dr. Jago on the Southaven community.