Homecoming reception planned for Dr. Hatcher

Published 8:42 pm Friday, May 13, 2011

Dr. Charles Hatcher Jr., was born in Attapulgus during the Great Depression, grew up during the years of World War II, and went on to be educated at UGA School of Medicine, trained at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and Boston’s Peter Bent Brigham Hospital where he learned from the most talented surgeons of the day before returning to Georgia as an assistant professor at Emory University in 1962.

There he became a leading cardiothoracic surgeon, performed Georgia’s first successful “blue baby” operation using open heart surgery, aortic valve replacement, its first double and triple valve replacements and its first coronary bypass.

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He became director of the Emory Clinic, director of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center and vice president for Health Affairs at Emory University before his retirement.

Through it all he has never forgotten his small town southwestern Georgia roots, and in fact credits his upbringing for what he is today.

The introduction to his newly released autobiography, “All in the Timing: From Operating Room to Board Room,” begins with the following: “Attapulgus! A Muskogee Indian word and the name of the little town in Southwest Georgia where I grew up. Later, in Baltimore, Washington or Boston, when people asked me where I was from, and I told them, they would look at me as if I were from Mars. ‘My God, where’s that?’ they would exclaim.

“So, for years, I thought it a handicap to come from such a small town with such a peculiar name. I would only realize years later how fortunate I was to grow up in this special community.”

The opening chapters of Dr. Hatcher’s book are filled with vivid memories of the people and places he knew, and are descriptive of the fairly typical lifestyle of Southwestern Georgians in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s. He relates a good history of the shade tobacco industry that thrived during those years, telling how he began working at age 5 on the tobacco plantations and how that experience convinced him he did not want to be a tobacco farmer when he grew up.

From the days of the Great Depression, World War II and beyond, Hatcher includes his impressions of the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement, and personal accounts of the relations he and his family enjoyed with the black community, where his father owned a general store. The book continues through the various stages of his life, and tells how “A small-town boy climbs the ladder.” There are many references to people and places in Attapulgus and Bainbridge. It is very interesting and inspiring reading.

His Decatur County friends say he has never forgotten Decatur County and can always be counted upon to put in a good word, or give a leg up for a fellow Decatur countian. He has also been a generous benefactor to many Decatur County charitable works through the years.

Now, Dr. Hatcher’s Decatur County friends are planning to honor his extraordinary life with a reception to be held at the Decatur County Gilbert H. Gragg Library on Tuesday, May 17, from 4 to 6 p.m. It is a celebration of the publication of his autobiography.

The public is invited to attend, as even those not acquainted with Dr. Hatcher will be interested in coming to meet this Decatur County native who took his early work ethic and background and went out into the world to climb the ladder of success.

For more information, call the library at (229) 248-2665 or visit the website at www.swgrl.org.