Dr. Rufus James “Jim” Garrison was the first pediatrician in Murfreesboro and came to be known as “Doctor Jim”.
Garrison died on Valentine’s Day at the age of 91. He was married to Kathyrn “Kay” Ann Garrison for 66 years.
“His brother, Doctor S.C. Garrison, Jr., and Doctor Carl Adams, they had a practice in Murfreesboro called Murfreesboro Medical Clinic,” said Kay Garrison, who is now a resident at Adams Place. “S.C., his oldest brother, came up to us in Louisville twice to see if he could talk Jim into coming to Murfreesboro to practice pediatrics. They needed help. We came to Murfreesboro in, I think it was June of 1957.
“When we first came here, he had no help. He was the only pediatrician. He was seeing 50 and 60 patients a day, and a lot of times, we had to go on house calls, because people couldn’t get in. He always put his patients first.”
Murfreesboro Medical Clinic, which has been in several locations since it opened, is located on Garrison Drive, named so for Jim Garrison and his brother.
Though Garrison was busy with his practice, Kay was quick to say he always made time for his family and his community. He was active in First Baptist Church on East Main Street in Murfreesboro.
“He was a kind, gentle, patient man that really cared for people,” Kay said. “I think his life showed he was a Christian, the good things that so many people said about him, that speaks for itself. That shows who he was, that it was real. It wasn’t put on.”
David Cummings is a lifelong Murfreesboro resident, a dietary partner at Adams Place, and one of Garrison’s former patients from infancy.
“Doctor Garrison was always the most soft-spoken, kindest man, and had a calming effect on the smallest of children,” Cummings said. “As a child, going to the doctor is always scary to some degree, and the only impression I ever recall from him is he just had a natural gift for making that subside.”
Joey Peay is currently the CEO of Murfreesboro Medical Clinic and his wife is a former Garrison patient. He said that Garrison made a great impact on the local medical community, including setting up the pediatrics program at Rutherford Hospital (now Saint Thomas Rutherford).
“If you think about what has become pediatric medicine in Rutherford County, it leads back to Doctor Jim,” Peay said. “As one of my pediatricians regularly reminds me, ‘Taking care of children is different, because they’re not little adults. They’re kids.’ They’ve got to be handled differently. Every time I met Doctor Jim, Doctor Jim was one of the most compassionate people I knew.
“Even after he had been retired for several years, he still took a strong interest in how we were doing, how we were maintaining the standards of care and compassion that he and the more senior colleagues had set years and years ago.
“The experiences that Doctor Jim had, he was very willing to share those with the younger physicians who joined us over the years. To have a resource like that is always an amazing thing, and patients are the true beneficiaries of that.”