The destined doctor: Pantego native achieves dreams
Published 8:28 pm Monday, February 24, 2014
From the Washington Daily News
A recent celebration of Black History Month at Belhaven’s White Plains Church featured the lives and stories of African Americans who had overcome adverse circumstances and made it to the pinnacle of success. Among them was a man whose determination catapulted him from the rural town of Pantego to the halls of the University of Michigan Medical School to a successful career in medicine: Dr. Alegro Godley.
Born to a working-class family in rural Pantego in 1924, Godley knew that growing up in the segregated South made his aspirations challenging. His father worked as a carpenter and farmer, and his mother worked as a teacher. Despite limited financial resources, Godley was determined to achieve his goals.
At the age of 15, Godley had taken all the high school classes offered at Beaufort County High School. He later attended Hampton University in Hampton, Va., where he studied science. At Hampton, Godley’s professors took notice of his math and science interests and encouraged him to further his education at the University of Michigan Medical School.
Godley did just that.
As a young African-American medical student, 18 at the time, Godley took classes and worked as a cook at the Michigan House, one of the residence halls at the university. His sister, Ernestine Jefferies, said he cooked Sunday dinners, and, despite not knowing how to cook, he learned pretty fast.
“He is a great brother — always has been. He gives of his knowledge and talent to those who seek it,” Jefferies said.
Godley’s love for medicine allowed him to excel in his studies and meet many renowned physicians. He worked at a local hospital and met Juanita Fitzpatrick, a nursing student from Grand Rapids. Later, they would wed.
After Godley graduated with his M.D. in 1948, he headed for New York City. He worked at Queens General Hospitals, where he completed his internal-medicine residency and clinical rotations. Then, the Korean War happened: Godley served in the Army and was stationed at Governor’s Island in New York Harbor. He worked as a physician, and his wife worked for the Visiting Nurses Association.
After the war, the couple relocated to Detroit where Godley practiced medicine for 43 years, first with a practice downtown on Woodward Avenue and then as a staff member of Harper Grace Hospital and Sinai Medical Center. The Godleys had four children, all of whom pursued medical degrees.
Godley and his wife divorced in the mid-1970s, and in 1982 he married Fannie Sims, a former math teacher. They retired in 1998 to Sun City West, Ariz., where he currently resides.
Godley has been an active member in the University of Michigan Medical School’s Fitzbutler-Jones Society and in 2008, the Fannie and Alegro J. Godley M.D. Scholarship was established to continue Godley’s legacy. Jefferies said her brother always wanted to be a doctor and share his knowledge with others.
The scholarship is awarded to deserving students like this year’s recipient, Evan Leitner, a graduate of Vanderbilt University, who mentored/tutored schoolchildren and taught fun science lessons to fifth and sixth graders at various schools during his undergraduate career.