Emotions stir in St. Louis over new use of a historic name

Missouri

ST. LOUIS – There will soon be a new Homer G. Phillips Hospital. The naming of the facility has had almost no community input, according to opponents.

It is a small hospital but a big deal for north St. Louis. Construction is finished. Everyone seems excited about the facility. But not everyone is excited about the use of that name – Homer G. Phillips.

“It’s not right. It’s just not right,” said Julia Allen, who worked as an x-ray technician at the original hospital. “(Using the name) is stealing my history. It’s stealing the Black history of St. Louis. People need to stop selling our history out without input from the community.”

“It’s just slapping some letters on a building and saying, ‘Hey, I can do this.’ It’s never ok when you have not had proper community input and you have not gone about it the right way,” said State Rep. Kimberly-Ann Collins, a St. Louis Democrat.

She’s calling on a name change for the new hospital. The original 600-bed Homer G. Phillips is in her district. It has been converted to residences for seniors. It was named for the African-American lawyer who got it built to serve African-American patients and train African-American doctors and nurses when racial segregation was a way of life in America. For a time, it was considered one of the nation’s best hospitals. It closed in 1979 after 42 years.

The new hospital will open in the spring with just three beds plus an emergency room. It’s part of the north St. Louis renovation, spearheaded by white developer Paul McKee. It’s adjacent to the new $1.7 billion National Geospatial (NGA) headquarters.

Darryl Pigge, an attorney for McKee, points out that site preparation has already begun for a 100-bed expansion of the new hospital plus a medical school.

Piggee said he was a life-long born St. Louisan and using the name was his idea to honor the man and the community.

“There is almost no other name that you could take if you really have a vision and you feel it in your heart and in your soul what it means to have a first-class medical facility in north St. Louis, then I feel everybody would be proud to have Homer G. Phillips as the name,” Piggee said.

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones tweeted Thursday that she also thought using the name was wrong.

There is also support for it among St. Louis aldermen. As of now, there’s no plan to change it.

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