By Sandra Long Weaver
NASHVILLE, TN — An historical marker honoring Dr. Matthew Walker, Sr. for keeping people healthy was unveiled on May 10 on the Jefferson Street side of the community center he founded more than 50 years ago
Metro Councilman Freddie O’Connell, who represents the 19th district, worked with the Historical Commission for over a year for the funding to have marker placed at the Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center at 14th Avenue and Jefferson Street.
“This will honor in perpetuity the legacy of Dr. Walker,” O’Connell told the gathering of family and friends of Dr. Walker and staff members of the center.
CEO Katina Beard welcomed everyone to the unveiling and gave a short history of the center which last year served more than 17,000 patients.
Dr. Candace Koney, a granddaughter of Dr. Walker, said her grandfather had been influenced by a hospital system in Mt. Bayou, Miss. that had been set up by formerly enslaved people. “It provided access and quality care to people,” she said.
“I remember as a young child going to the hospital with my grandfather and I was completely taken aback by the adulation he received as he walked through the hospital,” Koney said. “It was one of things that influenced me to become a physician.”
Jessica Reeves, Metro Historical Commission Preservationist, said the commission members were happy O’Connell chose Dr. Walker. “This is a way to reach out communities that don’t have historical markers” and recognize what has gone on.
Historical Marker No. 189 from the The Historical Commission of Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County recognizes Dr. Walker’s impact on the Middle Tennessee community and beyond. The center is the oldest federally funded community health center in Tennessee.
The silver and black marker reads “Mathew Walker was born December 7, 1906 in Waterproof, La. After attending school in New Orleans, he graduated from Meharry Medical College in 1934 and began teaching at Hubbard Hospital. Walker served as Chairman of the Department of Surgery from 1945-73 and was instrumental in securing a 1968 federal grant to start the Meharry Neighborhood Health Center. In 1970 the community-based clinic’s name was changed to the Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center in his honor.”
The unveiling was followed by the 10th annual Senior Expo at the center where information about health services and a lunch was provided to senior citizens.