MIAMI (CBSMiami) – “The idea of giving back has always been a part of my thinking.” Those are the words from Dr. George Simpson, who along with his wife Dr. Dazelle Simpson, have dedicated themselves to caring for South Florida African-American residents.
“I was four when I said I wanted to be a doctor,” explained Dazelle to CBS4’s Rick Folbaum. “My grandmother was ill at the time and I said I wanted to become a doctor so I could treat her and make her better.”
These two doctors broke down barriers in the early 1950s.
George was the first board certified African-American surgeon in the state of Florida.
Dazelle was the first African-American pediatrician in Miami. They met at medical school in Nashville, continued their training in South Florida and chose to settle in Miami, which was Dazelle’s hometown.
“I decided we might as well come here although I hadn’t quite decided that until my wife built a house in Miami in 1955. And once you build a house, it’s hard to get away,” said George.
The Civil Rights Movement here was not yet in full force.
“I remember when I got here; Fort Lauderdale was just as bad as any part of Alabama or Mississippi. But Miami was kind of an oasis and we didn’t find the stiff, unrelenting opposition to integration there that we did in other parts,” he explained.
“I was very lucky in coming to Miami,” said Dazelle.
And Miami was very lucky to have the Simpsons. They quickly realized a need in South Florida’s black communities.
“The poor side of a community always got the worst in health because economic, psychological, and religious attitudes can all cause a lot of illnesses,” said George.
And they did something about it.
“We petitioned the University of Miami and the city and to have this built on the west side where there was a greater underserved population.
George was the first medical director of Miami’s first community health center.
Dazelle would see patients in health clinics for 3 dollars an hour. She always remembered, as a young girl, watching African-Americans wait for hours and hours to see a white doctor. She wrote about it.
“This is what my 5th grade paper said, ‘They would come to doctors of color so they could be treated properly and they wouldn’t have to wait outside until everyone else was seen.’”
The Simpsons have been married over 65 years. They are doctors, activists, and trailblazers.
The very best South Florida has to offer. While he was practicing medicine, Dr. George Simpson was also active in the civil rights movement and the local NAACP. He fought for desegregation in all public facilities, from hospitals to schools and restaurants.
The Simpsons still live in Coconut Grove.