"Doc" Sistrunk, 1891-1966

James Franklin Sistrunk was born in Midway, Florida (near Tallahassee) in 1891.

He graduated from Meharry Medical College, in Nashville, Tennessee in 1919. He later served in World War I before relocating to Dunnellon, Florida to practice medicine.

Dr. Sistrunk moved to Fort Lauderdale in April, 1922. Although he was a qualified surgeon, he was not allowed to perform surgical procedures in white hospitals.

In 1938 he joined Dr. Von D. Mizell to establish Fort Lauderdale’s first medical facility for blacks, Provident Hospital. He is credited with delivering over 5,000 babies during his 44 years of practice. Throughout Broward County, Dr. Sistrunk would make house calls and assist those who were financially strained.

Northwest Sixth Street in Fort Lauderdale bears his name, "Sistrunk Boulevard." In addition, a bridge over the north fork on Northwest Sixth Street is named the "J. F. Sistrunk Bridge."

Dr. Sistrunk died on March 20, 1966. He is still honored today, every February, with The Sistrunk Festival which runs along the boulevard that bears his name, in the heart of Broward's oldest black enclave, the Sistrunk district.

"Doc" Sistrunk and Provident Hospital.
Click to see blowups.

Ellyn Waters' story about Dr. Sistrunk

Newspaper feature about Dr. Sistrunk

Provident Hospital trustees. "Doc" Sistrunk is at right.

 

Provident Hospital opens in 1938

Provident Hospital opened in a small one-story frame house on Northwest Sixth Street and 14th Terrace in Fort Lauderdale in 1938. It was named "Provident" due to the circumstances that led to its founding. Provident was founded so that blacks could get medical care. [Click to see photos of the hospital from 1939 to 1945.]

Provident was a general hospital, owned and operated by the black community through a non-profit corporation. It was the hospital for the care of black patients anywhere in South Florida, was operated by an all-black administrative staff and offered medical and surgical care under the standards set by the American Hospital Association.

In 1937, Dr. James Franklin Sistrunk, a black physician in Fort lauderdale, helped Dr. Von D. Mizell, a Dania native, found Provident. The hospital began in a ramshackle building near Sistrunk's office, but the two doctors worked diligently to involve the community in fund-raising efforts. Shortly afterward, the hospital opened on the N.W. 6th Street location. Mizell became the director in 1938.

Mizell instituted a training program at the hospital at a time when area hospitals would not hire black doctors. His colleagues were Dr. James Sistrunk, Dr. R. L. Brown and Dr. Calvin H. Shirley. Together, they joined in the fight to break racial barriers in local medicine while juggling office visits and house calls.

The city of Fort Lauderdale eventually took over the operation of Provident until public hospitals were desegregated in the early 60's.

Sistrunk died in 1966, and Northwest Sixth Street was named James Franklin Sistrunk Boulevard in his honor. In 1981, the former site of Provident Hospital opened as the Von D. Mizell Center.

SOURCE: Profiles researched and written by the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center of Broward County; the Black Archives History & Research Foundation of South Florida, Inc.; and The Miami Herald.