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American Medical Biographies/Alexander, James Franklin

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Alexander, James Franklin (1826–1903)

J. F. Alexander was born on a farm in Greenville district, South Carolina, in 1826, a descendant of good old Scotch-Irish stock and closely related to the Alexanders of Mecklenburg, North Carolina, who in May, 1775, signed the first "Declaration of Independence" known to be in existence in the United States. His grandfather, John R. Alexander, was a soldier in the Revolutionary War His father, Thomas W., removing from South Carolina settled in Gwinnett County, Georgia, when James F. was only five years of age. James graduated at the Georgia Medical College in March, 1849, afterwards settling in the city of Atlanta, at once forming a partnership with a former schoolmate, Dr. John C. Calhoun, but the exorbitant price of six dollars per month rent for an office so deterred young Calhoun that he went back to his old home, Lawrenceville.

Among Dr. Alexander's first patients were a number of small-pox cases whom the other doctors refused to treat. Dr. Alexander gladly availed himself of this opportunity and this incident doubtless affected the whole of his future. The reputation he gained here for his successful management of the cases and obliterating the disease gave him such notoriety that he was ever known, not only throughout Georgia, but the entire South as a successful small-pox expert. During his practice before and after the war he was known to have passed through fifteen or sixteen small-pox epidemics. In his early years he became an ardent advocate of general vaccination and re-vaccination.

In 1853, '54 and '55, he did much good work in helping to establish the Atlanta Medical College. Being of a diffident nature, he preferred private practice to appearing in the lecture hall.

Dr. Alexander was surgeon to the Eighth Georgia Infantry during the Civil War for the first year. After this he resigned, returned home, serving the Confederacy as a surgeon in the hospital, principally looking after small-pox patients during the last two or three years of the war.

In politics he was an ardent Democrat and active Secessionist. From his popularity and general congeniality he was a favorite among the people and could have held any office that he wished, refusing all, however, except to be elected delegate to the convention which declared Georgia out of the Union.

He was the youngest member of the body of men who formed the Georgia Medical Association in May, 1849. Up to his death he was an active and prominent member of this organization.

Dr. Alexander was very humane, never refusing the call of a pauper patient. It is estimated that in this line his gratuities reached almost one hundred thousand dollars.

He died November 14, 1903, of senile decay, after practising for fifty years.

His first wife was Miss Georgia Orme of Milledgeville, and his second wife, Ada, daughter of Judge Permeda Reynolds. From the first union there was an only daughter; from the second, two children, James F. and Ada.