The following was written by Lula Gloe White of Lamar County as part of the WPA Alabama Writers' Project. This collection contains several hundred ex-slave narratives, life histories, short stories, and folklore of Alabama life composed as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Federal Writers' Project during the Great Depression.
Dr. Box was born October 14, 1884 and died April 1, 1958. He and his wife, Josie Woods Box, are buried in New Hope Cemetery in Lamar County, Alabama
Dr. Billie is a fitting title for one returning to his old home community and establishing a practice among those who have known him from babyhood to manhood. It was wonderful to have their own "Billie" return to them as a great Doctor; to work with them, with love for a motive, not as a stranger commercializing his work. Dr. Billie has been true to the trust for he has remained in this same community all the years of his practice of medicine. So loyal at all times, it seems very probable that he will never leave his old home.
Dr. Box inherited the higher ideals of life, or at least his early enviroments encouraged this part of his nature. He was sent to school; but his father did not depend on teachers for all the training of his son. He kept the best of magazines and books at the ready disposal of his children and so deeply did "Billie" appreciate his "Youths' Companion" that he picked cotton to pay for the subscription, when told that they were not able to afford it. One year when cotton was so low in price, and "Billie" a very small boy, saved all his cotton picking money to buy his favorite magazine.
His father was ever ready with advice and by example to help him to choose the best steps to take, and Dr. "Billie" has lived by these ideals, while rearing his own family.
He was educated in the schools of Lamar County, with the exception of one year in Jefferson County, there teaching as assistant, and taking some higher studies at the same time, until his medical course was begun - in 1902 - the first year of which was in Birmingham, Alabama. The next two years in Memphis Medical College, and the last of the four years at Mobile Medical College. He graduated form Mobile in 1906. He married soon after this and started his practice, and the rearing of his family (two boys) in the community where he was born, twelve miles south of Sulligent.
Dr. Box is only fifty-six yers of age, but experience has made him so old in knowledge that he is consultd for advice about many things - besides medicine - by his neighbors and friends who trust him implicitly and love him devotedly. Its "Dr. what do you think about this man for office? And Dr. what ought I to do about my home that is under mortgage?" or even their family misunderstandings; Dr. "Billie" is thought to know the solution to all problems.
Dr. Box takes great pride in his home and likes to spend most of his time there, when he has any time off duty, which is seldom. He has an office in his yard, where he keeps drugs and equipment for filling his own perscriptions and giving examinations to patients.
Dr. Box is so cheerful and always sees the sunny side of life, trying to cheer his patients and help to drive away the blues as well as clouds of real despair. He has at times almost made a hospital of his home for patients who needed his, and his wife's, close care and nursing. His good wife is a real helper at all times and no doubt he could never have succeeded quite so well, had he not had such a helpmate.
Dr. Box likes sports and games of all kinds. His favorite diversion is fishing, however, he has sacrificed all on the alter of his profession, which is surely his calling.
He has a good road from highway No. 19 out to his home. He lives on Buch Jackson - also a good road from Sulligent to Columbus, Mississippi; but nevertheless, he has much bad road to travel in the wide scope of territory covered by his practice, which has a twenty-five or thirty mile radius.
Dr. Billie has gone on horseback, in a buggy and even walked to see some patients. Now he uses the car altogether, for he has learned to go under most any conditions.
Much of the country round about is hilly and in winter it is a hard matter to get to homes out on the little farms in the hills; also in summer the sand-beds are deep and hard pulling. In fact a deep sand-bed is about the most impossible thing a car can undertake. One can go through mud, with the aid of chains, or go in sleet and snow by windshield devices and heaters, and anti-freeze, etc., but Lord deliver one from sand-beds. Yet, the Dr. must go if he has to build the road as he goes. He usually carries a shovel or axe in the car, or maybe both, and in the case of a sand-bed, he must cut brush and lay down ahead of his wheels in order to pull out; and sometimes if he does not have chains, he uses the same means for going over slick clay.
Dr. Box is a Democrat, full fledged. He informs himself and feels pretty sure of his convictions, and votes accordingly. He must find a very good reason for changing from an opinion he has thoughtfully formed. He is a loyal and liberal supporter of the church. A member of the Methodist, and tactfully tolerant of all denominations. He would not live in a community where there was no church, and he and his son "Billie Burke" have done much to build and maintain a church in their community.
Dr. Box has three grand children. He is one of the proudest and indulgent of grandparents, and the name - which he never liked in his young days - does not seem at all unattractive in his small grandson, Billie.
Dr. Box has a marvelous mother living in Sulligent, to whom he is perfectly devoted. He goes to see her as often as an opportunity comes. She is prouder of her son for his life of unselfish service to his fellow man, than she would be of a whole gole mine, without him. "Billie" raises hogs and chickens on his farm, and at hog killing time he brings a ham and all kinds of fresh meat to "mother", and chickens - a coop at the time. Lots might be siad for this dear mother; but as a close friend has said, "what her children have accomplished, and the characters they have proven to be go to show what kind of mother they have," and suffice it to say, Dr. Box is proud of his ancestry, especially his own mother and father.
It seems that the life which a doctor leads would undermine the health - and perhaps does - but Dr. Box lives a temperate, moral life. He is strong and robust in physique, and has been a healthy man until the last year or more he has suffered a physical let-down. He loses more sleep than is good for health, for he goes when called - in rain, sleet or snow - even if he is sicker than the sick.
As to religion and morals, Dr. Box's religion is his moral guide, for he thinks there is no better code of living than the Ten Commandments, and the Golden Rule.
If he should suddenly become very wealthy and could lay aside his practice and retire to a life of ease and luxury; it is most certain that Dr. Billie would not give up his work among the needy in the great field of medicine.
A poor family had lately moved into his vicinity, and he was called to attend the mother at the birth of a baby. The little girl came in before the doctor left the home, and thinking they had more family than provision for their needs, solemnly remarked; "where we lived in Mississippi the doctor brought us a baby, and just as we got it up to where it could look out for itself, he brought us another one, and so we moved to get away from him, and now you have brought us one up here." But the doctor keeps bringing the babies into the world and always shall, and also he will be present when many have passed their "second childhood", to give what relief he can to the aged and suffering as they move - as the little girl said - to another country to get away from it all.