Riley House to honor former medical director of FAMU Hospital

The John G. Riley House & Museum will celebrate Black History Month on Friday by honoring the legacy of Florida A&M’s former hospital medical director, Dr. Russell Anderson.

Anderson served as the medical director of FAMU Hospital, a position he held up until he was 65. In 1957, he also established the Anderson/Brickler Medical Clinic in Tallahassee.

The 10th annual Cufflinks and Pearls Applause for the Pioneers Gala at the Carriage House, Goodwood Museum and Gardenswill pay tribute to those who have been trailblazers in the community and have left a legacy in Tallahassee.  

“The purpose of the gala is to honor individuals posthumously for their acts of pioneering change or long-term contribution to the Tallahassee community,” said Marion McGee, assistant director of the Riley House. “Even in their decease, there has been a substantial impact left by their legacy.”

David Jackson, chair of the Riley House board of directors,said the context and the time of which Dr. Anderson lived sets him as a pioneer in not only his field of medicine but in history overall.

“He dealt with the many challenges that African-Americans had to face at the time to become educated as a physician,” Jackson said. “Being able to provide medical care for African-Americans was very significant at that time because African-Americans openly were not being treated by white physicians and could not go to white households.”

Jackson said during the time of Jim Crow and segregation, Anderson was able to provide an alternative that the African-American community in Tallahassee would not have had in his absence. 

McGee said that learning about the history of the community and what strides and contributions individuals have made is an important part of Black History Month. Being able to see what sacrifices that have been made to afford the opportunities available now, McGee said, will inspire people to have the same type of impact on their communities.

“Students should attend so that they can understand the history of communities that they are a part of and that there is never a barrier or obstacle that is too great for them to make a lasting contribution,” McGee said.

Alex Brickler, a Florida State University doctoral student from Tallahassee who is also Anderson’s great-grandson, said it is humbling to have his family be recognized by such a pivotal institution in Tallahassee.

Brickler also said that the Riley House offering educational programs to members of the community and having events honoring pioneers in black history helps to maintain the local history of Tallahassee.

“It’s important to bear in mind history, black history in particular, so that we can always have a knowledge of where we’ve come from to help us better understand where we are going,” Brickler said.

Brickler said his family’s legacy, as well as those in history who have come before him, challenge him and have influence on the accomplishments he plans to make in life.

“We have to bear in mind that this didn’t just happen,” Brickler said. “It wasn’t just a given. Having black doctors down at TMH (Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare) or at Capitol Regional Medical Center, people had to do work, suffer and sacrifice to make that happen.”

Tickets for the gala, which begins at 8 p.m., are $125 for singles and couples. All proceeds will go toward supporting the John G. Riley Scholarship fund.

To purchase tickets or for more information, contact McGee at 850-681-7881.