Dr. Lewyn Eugene McCauley was born on January 28, 1883, to Roger E. and Martha A. McCauley in Wilmington, North Carolina. He was the oldest of six children, having five younger sisters. McCauley graduated from Kittrell College in Kittrell, North Carolina, in 1901 and from Leonard Medical School (LMS) in Raleigh in 1905. After graduating from LMS, Dr. McCauley spent a year in post graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania, followed by two years teaching at his alma mater. Later, he did more port-graduate work at Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. and St. Phillips Hospital in Richmond, Virginia (“The Old-Timers Page,” 1954). Next, he joined the medical staff at St. Agnes Hospital where he provided patient care, as well as instruction in the nursing school (Sammons, 1990).
The first newspaper announcement of Dr. McCauley’s plans to open a hospital appeared on January 13, 1916, in the New York Age. In an article titled “Raleigh to Have a Colored Hospital,” readers learned that Dr. Lewyn McCauley and Dr. F.J. Thorton were collaborating on a hospital that would be “strictly under the management of colored physicians” (1916, p.1). Several years passed before this idea became a reality.
On June 23, 1923, Dr. McCauley opened the McCauley Private Hospital (MPH) at 513 S. Wilmington Street in Raleigh, where he specialized in surgical care of women and infants. The hospital was a brick building with 12 beds and 3 bassinets (“Private Hospital,” 1923). It was the only private African American hospital to be given a Class “A” rating from the American Hospital Association (“Association Recognizes,” 1942). Dr. s Rufus Samuel Vass, Peter F. Roberts, and Golan S. Perry, all of whom were on the medical staff and nursing instructors at the St. Agnes Hospital, joined him in his new endeavor (Fisher & Douglas, 2015). Some of the nurses who worked in the hospital were Alice Hall, Madge Jeflers, Luvenia Jones, Madeline Richardson, Elina D. Taylor, Dancy Taylor, Anna B. Wingfield, Dorothy Brinson, and Versie Hobbs. After only two months of operation, the New York Age published this report:
The McCauley Private Hospital located at 513 South Wilmington Street, Raleigh, NC is proving itself a great help to Raleigh people and those of nearby towns. This institution is meriting for itself more and more praise each day on account of the wonderful work being done there for the patients admitted. The people are proud of this institution both from the stand point of service as well as its low mortality rate. Since the opening of this hospital in the latter part of June, there has occurred only one death; the institution having been practically full since opening. The place is kept scrupulously clean, is comfortable and cheerful. We wish to congratulate Dr. McCauley in establishing such a place for his people. A place of this kind has been long wanted and needed by the people. Dr. McCauley is proving that the colored man can establish, maintain, manage and control responsible institutions creditably. (“Raleigh, NC,” 1923, p.5)
While MPH generally served African Americans who could afford a private hospital and had obstetrical, gynecological, and/or pediatric health problems, the hospital and its staff also served the wider community in times of need. In 1927, St. Agnes Hospital suffered a devastating fire that caused all of the patients to be relocated. Dr. McCauley accommodated as many of the sickest patients as his hospital could hold and continued to admit many charity patients until St. Agnes could be rebuilt (“The McCauley Private Hospital”, 1927).
An article in the New York Age from June 20, 1925, mentions Dr. McCauley and his hospital, noting:
Among the outstanding features of the meeting [of the piedmont Chapter of the Old North State Medical Society] was the surgical clinic conducted by Dr. L.E. McCauley of Raleigh. Dr. McCauley is one of the leading surgeons of the South. He owns and conducts the McCauley Private Hospital at Raleigh, one of the leading hospitals of its kind in the State. During the time since it was first established, just a little less than two years ago, he has handled nearly 500 operative cases with an exceeding degree of success. Dr. McCauley specializes in gynecology, and during this meeting demonstrated some very scientific procedures to the men who were present. (“Raleigh,” 1925, p. 9)
By the 1940s, the hospital was “equipped with many of the latest medical facilities. One of the features of the plant is a well-lighted Operating Room and a modern x-ray machine” (“Association Recognizes,” 1942, p.10). Due to the costs of maintaining the hospital’s well-trained staff and up-to-date equipment, MPH could only afford to admit self-paying patients unless in exceptional circumstances. Because of the limited number of affluent African Americans, the facility remained small.
From 1927 through 1939, Dr. McCauley operated a nursing school at the hospital. In 1940, the North Carolina Board of Nursing required that student nurses train in a facility with an average daily census of 50 patients. McCauley and his colleagues could not meet that standard, so the nursing school closed. The hospital continued providing vital care to the community through the years of the Great Depression and World War II (State archives, 2016; “Raleigh Hospital Marks,” 1948). In 1954, the hospital recorded 1,029 days of patient care. By the middle of the twentieth century, Raleigh’s hospitals, both white and African American were showing their age. Rex Hospital, a predominantly white facility, opened in 1894, St. Agnes Hospital was founded in 1896, the white Mary Elizabeth Hospital was erected in 1911, and McCauley Private Hospital followed in 1923. In 1955, the voters of Wake County passed a bond issue to construct a modern hospital that would be open to all, although there would be segregated wings for white and African American patients. In 1961, the new Wake Medical Center admitted it first patients, and the owners and administrators of the other hospitals began closing their facilities (Johnson & Murray, 2008). Dr. McCauley was 76 years old when Wake County Memorial Hospital (now Wake Medical Center) opened. He died there the next year, on March 18, 1962, of an abdominal blockage (“Dr. L. McCauley,” 1962).
Throughout his life, Dr. McCauley was active in and led many social, political, religious, and professional organizations in Raleigh, North Carolina, and across the country. He served as President of the Raleigh chapter and then the statewide Old North State Medical Society. He was chairman of the surgical section of the National Medical Association and Director of the Farmers and Merchants Bank in Raleigh; Master Mason; served on the Board of Trustees of Kittrell College; was President of the Raleigh chapter of the NAACP; a director of the Richard Harrison Library, a director of the African American Raleigh YMCA, and held various offices in the Elks, Knights of Pythias, Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, and the Raleigh Interracial Commission. In addition to his civic and professional involvement, Dr. McCauley was active in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, teaching Sunday school and serving on the Board of Directors (Yenser, 1942; Fisher & Douglas, 2015). In 1952, the Raleigh Masonic Kabala Temple selected Dr. McCauley as “Citizen of the Year.” A Carolina Times editorial on April 5, 1952, praised his selection:
The recent selection of Dr. L. E. McCauley of Raleigh as the “Citizen of the Year” by Kabala Shrine Temple is an honor well deserved by the noted physician whose service to his race, as a churchman, civic, business and fraternal leader, as well as a doctor, spans nearly a half century. In honoring Dr. McCauley, Kabala Temple has honored itself. The example set by the Raleigh physician deserves careful scrutiny by the younger men of the profession, who are to a great extent so elusive in their attitude that they could be easily classed as downright selfish. One only needs to look around him in the direction of the church, civic, business and social life of the average community to discern that a majority of the younger Negro physicians make little or no contributions, financially or otherwise to the struggles of the race other than the practice of their profession. The record shows that Dr. McCauley has served his people in most every field of endeavor in which they are engaged. For a long number of years he has served freely on the boards of church, business, social and fraternal organizations. Not only has he given of his time, energy and advice, but he has put his money in them as well. The CAROLINA TIMES felicitates the Kabala Temple for its selection of Dr. McCauley as the 1951 “Citizen of the Year.” It is our honest belief that there is no other physician o£ the State who is more deserving of the honor than this polished gentleman of the medical profession who has wrought so well in the city of Raleigh (“A Well Deserved Honor,” 1952, p.2).
Over half a century has passed since Leonard Hospital, St. Agnes Hospital, or McCauley Private Hospital admitted patients. Their very existence is largely forgotten. However, these institutions provided high quality medical care for thousands of people in times of pain and crisis. In addition, they taught the first African American physicians and nurses in North Carolina, then launched them across the state and around the globe to build other hospitals and nursing schools while working to heal some of the world’s most vulnerable people.