Seldom did a time pass when Gerald G. Woodruff Jr. was out in public in his hometown of Anniston that someone didn’t approach him and recall what a loving and caring physician he had been to their family.
That’s what Woodruff family members recall about the legacy of the longtime pediatrician who practiced here for some 50 years starting in 1957. Thousands of children were his patients.
“It becomes your life. It’s a good life. Pediatrics is a very satisfying and very gratifying field,” Woodruff told a reporter on the occasion of his retirement in 2006.
Woodruff, a fifth-generation Calhoun County resident, died at home July 30.
Born in Anniston in January 1928 to Flora and Gerald Woodruff, himself a physician, Gerald Jr. was educated at the McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tenn., and at the University of Alabama, where he was an ATO brother and in the marching band. He earned a bachelor of science in chemistry, graduating in 1948.
In 1952 Woodruff graduated from medical school at Tulane, where he was vice president of the Chi Phi medical fraternity. The Korean War was raging at the time, so his intern phase of training was at or near battlefields. In 1953 he deployed with the 224th Infantry Regiment to Korea as medical company commander and battalion surgeon, rising to regimental surgeon. According to family, Woodruff’s skill and ability at the front were credited with greatly alleviating the suffering of injured men. He was awarded the Commendation Ribbon with Metal Pendant for meritorious achievement.
Woodruff completed his pediatric residency at Charity Hospital in New Orleans in 1956, then spent the next year as assistant medical registrar at the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street, London. With that experience fresh in mind, he returned to his hometown in 1957 and established his solo pediatric practice.
In 1963 Woodruff chaired the Sabin oral vaccine program against polio, spearheaded by the Calhoun County Medical Society. The program kicked off publicly Oct. 20, 1963, on a day called “Stop Polio Sunday.” On that initial dosage date, tens of thousands of Calhoun County residents lined up to get a sugar cube containing the vaccine; before that, the immunization had been available locally through private physicians, Woodruff recalled in a 1980 interview.
Woodruff served on the Executive Committee of the Alabama Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics for 10 years, rewriting the chapter’s constitution and bylaws. From 1986-91 he served as vice president, then president of the chapter, which in 1989 earned the academy’s award for best medium-sized chapter.
His long career placed him in service on numerous professional bodies, including chief of staff at Regional Medical Center, director of pediatrics of the Family Practice Residency Program and president of the Calhoun County Medical Society.
Outside interests included the Donoho School, where he was one of its founders, and his church, Grace Episcopal, where he served in a variety of roles.
Dr. Woodruff is survived by his wife, the former Betty Plummer Potts, and his children, Gerry (Mimi) of Atlanta; Bowen, of Camp Lejeune, N.C.; Rhett (Greg Warner) of Raleigh, N.C.; David, of Los Angeles, Calif.; and Margaret, of Newnan, Ga.; and his step-children Thomas Potts Jr. of Anniston and Marian Papy of Savannah, Ga. Also surviving are his grandchildren: Grace and Davis Woodruff, Hattie and Margaret Anne Warner, Lanier, Emily, and Andrew Sealy. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Harriet Rhett Bowen, his brother Roy Woodruff, and his sister Jane Woodruff Lucas.
Memorial gifts may be made to Grace Episcopal Church, P.O. Box 1791, Anniston, AL 36202, or to the RMC Foundation, designated for pediatric services, 400 E. 10th St., Anniston, AL 36207.
A private memorial service will be held at a later date.