Smith Family of Doctors

101_1069Eight men from three generations of the Smith Family became doctors.  All were born in an area around what is now Paris, Arkansas.  The five who remained there to practice medicine and who met the criteria for induction into the Arkansas Country Doctor Museum Hall of Honor were: Dr. John James Smith, Dr, Arthur McDanel Smith, Dr. John Frank Smith, Dr. James Turner Smith and Dr. Charles McDanel Smith.

The entire list of Smith doctors to date follows:

Dr. John James Smith-January 7, 1854–April 4, 1941, Dr. Arthur McDanel Smith-August5, 1863-May 21,1930, Dr. John Frank Smith-Oct. 12, 1901-July 10, 1960, Dr. James Turner Smith-May 1, 1913-April 21,1994, Dr. John Charles Smith, Dr. Charles McDanel Smith-March 16, 1905-February 5, 1979, Dr. Arthur McDanel Smith II-1930-2008, Dr. John James Smith II.

Sometime before the Civil War, about 1860, a young couple, Arthur and Mary Jane Smith came to Arkansas and bought land in an area called Meg, Arkansas in Franklin County.  When the War Between the States started, Arthur joined the Confederate troops and left Mary with seven children.  When Arthur came home briefly he fathered her eighth child.  Later he was captured and died in a military prison at the age of 43.  Mary remained on the homestead, ran the farm and raised the children.

The oldest boy, John James, known as Jim (born 1854) received as much education as was available in a one-room school and worked on the farm until he had enough money to go to medical school.  He earned the M.D. Degree from Vanderbilt in 1879 when he was 25 years of age.  Later he went to Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, at that time the most prestigious Medical College in the United States, and graduated in 1891.  He returned home and set up practice in a log cabin in Chism, Arkansas.  The youngest boy and eighth child, Arthur McDanel, known as Mac, was born in 1866.  He graduated from the University of Arkansas and then enrolled in and graduated from Tulane Medical School (1892).  He joined Dr. John James in practice.  They used a horse, named Old Ninety, and buggy to go either east or west each day to offer their services to the rural people in the surrounding area.  It was hard to make a living with the poor rural people so an arrangement was made with another Smith brother, Frank, who ran the home farm and owned a general store.  Patients could pay their medical bills at the store while in town on other business.  This arrangement lasted until 1899 when the two doctors moved to Paris and opened their office above the drug store.  The three brothers remained in partnership and combined their earnings to buy additional land and invest in the coal business.  Eventually the two doctors became bankers or owners of coal mines and a cotton seed mill.

Dr. John James Smith had no children.  Dr. Arthur McDanel Smith fathered three sons who also became doctors.  The first son was Dr. John Frank Smith.  He went to Tulane Medical School and completed a year of post doctoral studies in pathology at Touro Infirmary in New Orleans.  The second son, Dr. Charles McDanel Smith was born in 1905.  He also graduated from Tulane Medical School and completed the same year of post doctoral studies in pathology at Touro Infirmary in New Orleans.  The third son, Dr. James Turner Smith was born in 1914.  He went to the University of Arkansas and then also to Tulane Medical School.

The two original doctors (John James and Arthur McDanel) dreamed of having a hospital.  In 1910 they bought the old Theodore Potts Homestead as a temporary location and in 1913 opened a 15 bed hospital.  It was said, “They never sent a bill.  Each doctor carried two wallets; one was his own, and the other belonged to the hospital.  If a patient just released walked by the desk without stopping, that meant he was unable to pay.  If he paused by the desk, he would discuss with one of the doctors how much he could pay that day.  This tradition was carried on by the second generation of Smith doctors in the same way.”  (Cynthia DeHaven Pitcock, Six County Doctors: The Smith Hospital, Paris, Arkansas, ed. Mark K. Christ and Cathryn H. Slater [Fayetteville, 2000]89)

To staff the hospital, the doctors opened a nurses training program which admitted unmarried girls who were high school graduates at least eighteen years of age.  There was no curriculum nor state recognition for the program.  The doctors taught the women basic techniques and how to assist the doctors.  The  program was taught for about two years.  The girls lived in the old Potts house used as a temporary hospital before the 1913 hospital was built.  Some of the women left Paris and went elsewhere to school to become licensed nurses, then returned to work at the hospital.

In the early 1920s the coal mining business was thriving and the Smith doctors devised a re-paid medical plan.  The fee was one dollar per month per family regardless of race and it was deducted from the pay checks of miners who signed up. Other people as well joined the plan.  Though the American Medical Association objected, it served the people of Logan County well.

In 1923 the hospital was enlarged to thirty beds.  The first floor was remodeled for private rooms and one four bed ward that was also an emergency or overflow department.  The second floor was designated for obstetrics, including the delivery room, post-partum rooms and nursery.  A bell was used to call the doctors when a patient was ready to deliver.  A third floor including a new wing included private patient rooms.  The old building was renovated for the doctors’ offices and a library.  The doctors were there 7 days a week.

Three years later, 1926, the second generation of Smith Doctors began to join the staff.  Dr. John Frank Smith who had graduated from Tulane Medical School and with a post doctoral course in pathology was a much needed addition.  At that time the doctors raised their pre-paid insurance fee to $2.00 a month per family.

Then in 1929 Dr. Charles McDanel Smith joined his older brother, father and uncle.  He had served in the military in Africa and Italy as Chief of Staff in Radiology during WWII before returning.  A little more than a decade later, 1940, the last son of Dr. Arthur McDanel joined the hospital staff.  Dr. James Turner Smith.  He too served in the military in the South Pacific Theater for four years before returning to join in the family medical practice.  Both men came back with the rank of Major.  The hospital continued operation until Dec. 31, 1971 when it closed due to financial losses.  The doctors still used it as offices until 1974.  It had served the Paris community and Logan County for 61 years.

Two other Smith physicians (sons of Charles McDanel Smith) left Arkansas.  Dr. John James Smith II went to Anchorage, Alaska and Dr. Arthur McDanel Smith II went to Tacoma, Washington.

The Smith Family of Doctors has long been known to be generous, giving to civic agencies and other just causes.  During WWII, Dr. John offered his gas rationing stamps to the local service station to be given to person in emergency situations.  Dr. James Turner received an award for many years of service as Kiwanis member.  Respect for the doctors was area wide for they treated many more patients than ever paid for their care.  They never sent a bill.


The contributions of the Smith Family of Doctors in Logan County and Paris, Arkansas began in the 1880s with Dr. John James Smith,—followed by his brother Dr. Arthur McDanel, and his three sons—Dr. John Frank Smith, Dr. Charles McDanel Smith, Dr. James Turner Smith and his son—Dr. John Charles Smith, who continues the legacy of his grandfather, his uncles and his cousins caring for the people in Paris, Arkansas.