George Whipple Hubbard

Founder and first president of Meharry Medical College George W. Hubbard was born on August 11, 1841, in North Charlestown on the Connecticut River in New Hampshire. His paternal grandfather, David Hubbard, had been among the first settlers of the older village, Charlestown, and his maternal grandfather had been one of the founders of Crydon, New Hampshire.

George Hubbard was educated in North Charlestown public schools until the age of seventeen, when he enrolled in Pomfret Academy in Pomfret, Vermont. He later continued his education at the New Hampshire Conference Seminary at Sanbornton Bridge and the Scientific and Literary Institute in New London, New Hampshire. His first employment was as a teacher in the Calumet School in Charlestown.

In 1864 Hubbard volunteered to serve as a delegate and missionary chaplain of the U.S. Christian Commission. He served six weeks in the Army of the Potomac near Confederate lines in Virginia, then moved south to serve as military chaplain with General William T. Sherman's army, then besieging Atlanta. Arriving in Nashville in August 1864, Hubbard discovered that the forces of General Nathan B. Forrest had destroyed the railroad between Nashville and Chattanooga. While he waited for repairs to the railroad, Hubbard took a temporary assignment as a teacher in a school conducted in Nelson Merry's Baptist Church, the first African American Church in Nashville. His assignment was extended for an entire year. In July 1865 Hubbard was invited to teach soldiers in the 110th United States Colored Troops stationed in Gallatin. He joined the soldiers and in October went with the regiment to Huntsville, Alabama, where he remained until the unit was mustered out of the service in February 1866.

During the autumn and winter of 1866, Hubbard taught school in Clinton, Kansas, then returned to Nashville, where he taught school for the Freedmen's Aid Society of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Later that year, he was elected principal of Bellevue public school in a western Davidson County farming community. He held that position for seven years. In 1875 Hubbard enrolled at the University of Tennessee and graduated the following year. He then enrolled at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, from which he received his degree as a medical doctor in 1879.

In October 1876 Hubbard worked under the direction of Dr. John W. Braden, assisted by Dr. W. J. Sneed, a Confederate veteran, to open the Meharry Medical Department of Central Tennessee College. Initially the college enrolled fewer than a dozen students. In 1886 the dental department opened at Meharry, followed by a pharmaceutical department in 1889. With the closing of Central Tennessee College, Meharry Medical College emerged as an independent medical-training institution, of which Hubbard served as president for forty-five years. Upon his retirement in February 1921, Hubbard became the first president emeritus of the college. Meharry's students and alumnae presented Dr. and Mrs. Hubbard (nee Annie Lyons) a residence on the South Nashville campus of Meharry Medical College. At that time the Hubbards had been married almost fifty-two years.

The January-March 1921 issue of the Journal of the National Medical Association published a tribute to Hubbard, noting that his “remarkable genius and devotion made successful practitioners, good citizens, and useful men of the early graduates of Meharry. . . . Dr. Hubbard has laid a substantial foundation for a great institution, an institution whose worth and influence will gather momentum with passing years.”

Hubbard died August 8, 1924, and was buried beside his wife in Nashville's Greenwood Cemetery. His Nashville home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Suggested Reading

James Summerville, Educating Black Doctors: A History of Meharry Medical College (1983)

Citation Information

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  • Article Title George Whipple Hubbard
  • Author
  • Website Name Tennessee Encyclopedia
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  • Access Date July 13, 2024
  • Publisher Tennessee Historical Society
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 1, 2018