Long-time Doctor Hanging Up Shingle



TUPELO, Miss.-One of Tupelo’s most treasured physicians recently retired after 64 years of dedicated service to this community.

Eugene Murphey III, M.D., was born in West Point in 1920 and moved with his family to Itta Bena as a toddler. Around age 6, his family moved to Long Beach, where his mother taught school and his father was a banker. His paternal grandfather, the original Eugene Murphey, was a general practitioner in Macon. “He’s probably the one who influenced my decision to become a doctor,” he said.

After graduating from Long Beach High School in 1938, he studied medicine at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. During my freshman year at Ole Miss, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and I was drafted as an inactive Army member, “he said. “At that time Ole Miss only had a two-year program, so medical students transferred elsewhere to finish their degree. I transferred to Tulane.”

After earning his medical degree, Dr. Murphey served a nine-month internship at Charity Hospital in New Orleans, followed by a nine-month residency there. While in New Orleans he met his roommate’s friend, Margaret Anne Cooper, and the two were married Dec. 6, 1945. Originally they planned the wedding for Dec. 7 but moved it up a day after realizing the date’s significance. “We always said we didn’t want two wars starting on the same day,” he joked.

“As soon as I finished training, I was drafted into active service as a medical officer,” Dr. Murphey said. He was briefly assigned to Ft. Benning, Ga., then Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. “Just as I finished my first year, they sent me to Japan,” he said. “The war had ended by then.”

After discharge from the Army, Dr. Murphey completed a two-year fellowship in internal medicine at Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans. From there, he and Margaret Anne moved to Tupelo, which was his mother’s hometown and where his grandfather and several extended family members still resided. At that time less than a dozen physicians were on staff at North Mississippi Medical Center, and he shared an office on East Main Street with obstetrician-gynecologist P.K. Thomas, M.D.

“When I came to Tupelo, the hospital didn’t have an EKG machine,” Dr. Murphey said. “If I needed to do an EKG on a patient, I had to take mine with me. It weighed about 50 or 60 pounds, and it had a handle so I guess you would call it portable.”

In the early days Dr. Murphey treated a lot of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and a variety of medical conditions. Because of his advanced training, he was often called for consultation by other physicians in Tupelo, as well as by the hospitals in New Albany and Fulton.

In those days, house calls were quite common. “I was new to Tupelo and didn’t know my way around well,” he said. “There were not many streetlights back then. They would give me directions, and I’d have to find my way around in the dark.”

He was also called to the Emergency Department at all hours of the day and night. “The ER was just one small room with little staff,” he said. “If a patient came in, we would have to go there to see them.”

In the early 1970s OB/GYN Walter Bourland, M.D., and internal medicine physician Bill Wood, M.D., joined their clinic and the four moved into a new professional building downtown that Dr. Thomas’ family built. Drs. Murphey and Wood later moved to a new building on Garfield Street. In the 1980s, Drs. Murphey and Wood merged with new internal medicine physicians Antone Tannehill, M.D., and Frank Lummus, M.D., to form Internal Medicine Associates-the predecessor to IMA-Tupelo.

Although he didn’t get much time off, when he did he enjoyed taking photos and developing them in his darkroom at home. He enjoyed traveling, especially trips to England to purchase items for his wife’s antique store. He also loves electronics-he was an amateur radio operator for many years and bought one of the first computers from Radio Shack. His children were reared in Tupelo. Daughter Margaret and son Cooper still reside in Tupelo, and Margaret works as an oncology nurse at NMMC. Daughter Jean lives in Atlanta, while son Cooper is a radiologist in Hattiesburg. The Murpheys have two grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Dr. Murphey was the first of his partners to start practice and the last to retire. After developing lymphedema awhile back he “decided the hospital was just too big to get around” and gave up his hospital practice. But he continued to see patients at IMA-Tupelo well past his 93rd birthday in December. “I am long past retirement age,” he quipped. “I decided to quit on March 4, Mardi Gras day.”

Even though he’s hanging up his stethoscope, Dr. Murphey isn’t slowing down much. He enjoys meeting with the Southern Light Photography Club every month and is hoping to travel some. He remains active with the Tupelo Symphony Orchestra, which Margaret Anne serves as executive director, and with First Presbyterian Church.

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