By Jerri Whitner, Student Contributor
Dr. James H. Stewart, a native of Wheelwright, Kentucky, was one of the earliest students to walk the Purpose Road, graduating from the Caney Junior College in 1942. Following his time at Caney, Dr. James Stewart went on to achieve many accomplishments, partially due to the influence of Alice Lloyd herself. Dr. Stewart graduated from Wheelwright High School in 1941 at the young age of fourteen; following his high school graduation, he made the journey to Pippa Passes to attend Caney Junior College. From his work study to his time with Alice Lloyd, Dr. Stewart has many fond memories from his time on Caney Creek. Dr. Stewart arrived at the college with a fiddle in his hand and dreams of being a pilot. Unfortunately, Mrs. Lloyd’s practicality did not approve of such aspirations. She confiscated his fiddle and started him on his educational journey. When Dr. Stewart told her that he had hopes of being a pilot, she said that he would not be a pilot but a doctor instead because that was what the area needed. Even though Mrs. Lloyd did not approve of prioritizing playing the fiddle over studying, she would often call Dr. Stewart into her office and let him play for about an hour before sending him back to his studies. Despite her firm guidance and expectations, Dr. Stewart carries fond memories of his time with Mrs. Lloyd.
Alice Lloyd College’s Student Work Program has been functioning since the founding of the college. Although the program evolved over the years, its mission to support the betterment of the college and the students remained the same throughout the years. During his time at the college, Dr. Stewart had various jobs on campus such as creosoting the lamp posts to help preserve the wood. The process was messy and because of Mrs. Lloyd’s desire to have her students look professional, she told him that he had to stay in his uniform while he did his job. He also worked in the mail room and with the beloved Exchange Program, where people would barter for necessities, such as clothing and tools. The program still continues today, although it has been modified into a Clothing Exchange.
Dr. Stewart was an outstanding student at Caney Junior College and because of his excellent marks Mrs. Lloyd and June Buchanan assisted him in getting his Bachelor of Science degree by sending him to the Caney Cottage on the campus of the University of Kentucky. There was no surprise when Dr. Stewart also did well at the University of Kentucky; respected by his peers he was promoted to House Father at the Caney Cottage, and in 1944 he graduated from the University of Kentucky. After earning his degree, he left Kentucky to further his educational pursuit and attended the prestigious medical school in New Orleans, Louisiana-Tulane University. In 1947, at the age of twenty, he graduated with his M.D., but he was too young to get his medical license. He had to wait until he was twenty-one to apply for his license.
However, Dr. Stewart was not one to idly sit by and wait. He began to intern at Touro Infirmary in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he learned to perform Pathology and General Surgery.
Though his work in Louisiana was temporarily interrupted by the Korean War, it provided new opportunities for Dr. Stewart and allowed him to train at several hospitals across the United States such as a Naval Hospital in Chelsea, Massachusetts, where he practiced Pediatric Surgery and a Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia, where he trained for Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. Dr. Stewart also served as a combat surgeon with the 1st Marine Division in Korea and for the 6th (Mediterranean) Fleet. He was awarded the Bronze Star medal with combat “V” and was honorably discharged in 1958.
For thirty-two years, Dr. Stewart was a licensed surgeon in Louisiana, and during that time, he made several advances in the medical field. He designed and built the first cardiac defibrillator and the first transistorized pacemaker, both which he used during his medical practice in New Orleans. Dr. Stewart also served on several medical boards and for four years he was the president of the Louisiana State Medical Society. While he was working in Louisiana, he also met his wife of thirty-five years, Patricia Ann Clark. Dr. Stewart and his wife have three children that they are proud of, two daughters who are attorneys and a son who has retired from working at General Motors.
Even though Dr. Stewart took the advice of Mrs. Lloyd and became a doctor, he never forgot his dream of becoming a pilot and his love for music. He became a Commercial Pilot for single and multi-engine planes as well as seaplane ratings. Dr. Stewart is also an FAA designated flight safety check pilot and a certified flight and instrument flight instructor. Dr. Stewart’s humble beginnings of playing the fiddle for Mrs. Lloyd eventually developed into him playing the banjo and steel guitar. His passion for music led him to become a member of the International Steel Guitar Association.
Dr. Stewart accomplished much in his many years of being a surgeon and in 1990 he retired to Vero Beach, Florida. Even though he was retired he continued to be active through his piloting and music. Dr. Stewart was a long way from Caney Creek, but he had not forgotten his home. He gave back to his roots in the form of serving on the ALC Board of Trustees from 1995-1999. He and his wife have also helped arrange venues for the Voices of Appalachia when the group toured Florida. In 1998, Dr. Stewart was awarded the ALC Distinguished Service Award for his service to the college. The amount of time and generosity that Dr. Stewart has given to ALC is immense and all who go to ALC are blessed by the thoughtful contributions of the Stewart family.
Dr. James H. Stewart’s story is one that resonates with the pursuits of the modern student, a message of hard work, dedication, and passion for all that you do. Dr. Stewart’s advice to the youth of Appalachia is that, “whenever you join the work force, present yourself properly and be willing to do anything for your first job; you can’t be President right out of college.” Dr. Stewart’s life is an extraordinary one filled with many achievements and one would be wise to listen to his advice. Alice Lloyd College President Joe Stepp described him well when he said, “Dr. James Stewart is a true servant leader. His exceptional life of service exemplifies the Purpose Road Philosophy. Borrowing from Mrs. Lloyd, he has demonstrated with his life that he has ‘faith as firm as a rock and aspirations as high as the mountains.’” Because of the encouraging words of Alice Lloyd and the morals that he developed through the Purpose Road Philosophy, Dr. Stewart has been able to succeed in all his endeavors and has become an inspiration to all.