Correcting the record, but not incognito

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

If there’s anything worse in journalism than not checking facts, this ersatz reporter has forgotten what it is. Maybe not correcting the record when you can. Herewith, a correction and a reprise.

I might be breaking a taboo here. Unsigned letters usually do not rate publication, but this one is unusual. In the first place, I don’t remember when I’ve seen such a well-written letter – perfect in spelling, grammar, punctuation. I’d grade it at least a 95, and that because she abbreviated “Methodist.”

But it’s the fact that the writer, almost surely female and around 80 years of age, wrote so gently I didn’t feel chastised, only respectfully corrected. Her cursive script is large and bold, not easy to read, and fills the entire space between the lines on the paper.

In my column, I stated that the Samses, Dr. Helen and Dr. Sams, Jr., were the first full-time doctors in Fayette County, Ga.

They weren’t. I knew better than to say they were. Pure carelessness on my part.

Mea culpa, mea culpa.

My correspondent started with a compliment, as most smart mentors do.

She wrote:

“Mrs. Satterthwaite, I enjoyed your article on Helen and Sambo [Sams] whom I have known for over 60 years, when they came to Fayetteville and opened their practice in the old Telephone Exchange House next to the Meth. Church, and later built a residence, facing Stonewall.

“The older Dr. Busey, according to my sources, was indeed a family practitioner, but this was before the outbreak of specialists in the county. Nowadays specialists outnumber GPs or generalists by a large margin. [Note the careless reporter slip there. What’s a “large margin” anyhow? I’ll stay a columnist; it’s much easier.]

“Dr. Busey, Jr., was a specialist in urology, but I don’t believe he practiced here in the county. His father did, and built a small clinic to spare women the trek to Atlanta for pre-natal care and childbirth. I remember that little building where the Methodist expansion stands today.”

No, says one of my sources, it was the Samses who established the clinic, then later built quite an expansive office on Jeff Davis Drive. Patients remember Christmas cards picturing the clinic.

My anonymous critic continues:

“Dr. Thomas J. Busey, Jr., who was also a full-time physician here, and had been one for a number of years. In fact, he opened a small hospital during the WWII years. I am sure that his son Dr. Thomas J. Busey, Jr. who resides on Ebenezer Rd. and his former nurse, Mrs. Walter (Dot) Stanley, who resides on Hillsdale Dr. in Fayetteville, would verify this, or a lot of his former patients.”

My copy of the Fayette County history has wandered off again, and I’ll bet there are more stories there that would add to this chronicle. Or if you would like to add your tribute to our medical reminiscences, I’ll share them with readers.

Other sources for this correction include Fayette historian Carolyn Cary, Sam Burch, and Doug Stanley.

Ms. Anonymous concludes:

“Let’s not leave out a man who gave years in this community also.”

[Indecipherable signature]

Maybe, just maybe, such accounts will help ease the pangs of losing a big part of the Fayette community. And remembering their roles in the growth of our county makes good journalism.

I’ll make a note of that.

[Sallie Satterthwaite of Peachtree City has been writing for The Citizen since our first issue Feb. 10, 1993. Before that she had served as a city councilwoman and as a volunteer emergency medical technician. Her email is SallieS@Juno.com.]