Local News

Dr. Charles Watts' Legacy Still Being Felt In Durham

Posted July 14, 2004

— Durham lost a valuable member of its community this week. Dr. Charles Watts, the first black in the state to become a board certified physician, died Monday at the age of 86. Thanks to his life's work, minorities and low-income families in Durham are getting the health care they need.

Durham's first hospital opened to serve white patients only more than 100 years ago.

"After that for about five years, there was an agitation, 'What are we going to do with blacks when they get sick in Durham?'" Watts said in an earlier interview with WRAL.

Watts was not around then, but he faced the same question more than 60 years later when some thought Lincoln Hospital had outlived its purpose.

Dr. Aaron Moore and John Merrick built it in 1901 to serve the black community. but desegregation in the 1960s meant blacks could get medical care at Watts, Duke or Durham County Regional.

Lincoln Hospital later closed, but Watts led a campaign to build a new Lincoln Community Center on the site of the old hospital in 1971. Today, it is a refuge for many without health insurance. No one is turned away.

Watts' funeral is scheduled for noon Friday at St. Joseph's AME Church in Durham.

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