Dr. James Oliver Willie peacefully departed his earthly home on March 29, 2019. His life’s journey began January 31, 1924 in Jones County, North Carolina (NC) to the late James O. Willie and Beulah Barber Willie.
His elementary education began at Johnson County Training School in Smithfield, NC. While growing up in Smithfield, NC., a local doctor, Dr. C. W. Furlong and two teachers in his high school, Marcellus Miller and John Winstead were the catalyst that helped influence his decision to go into the field of medicine.
Dr. Willie attended Johnson C. Smith University, Charlotte, NC, for only two and a half years due to early admission to Meharry Medical College, Nashville, TN, where he graduated in 1948. His Bachelors was conferred in Biology in 1970. He interned at Kansas City General Hospital in Missouri, and completed residencies at Lincoln Hospital, Durham, NC and Wayne State University in Detroit, MI, in Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB/GYN).
Dr. Willie, affectionately called “JO”, upon completion of his residencies established his practice in OB/ GYN in Norfolk, VA. While the road wasn’t always easy, he persevered. In 1959, Dr. Willie became the first African-American physician in Virginia and the first African-American in Virginia to be a member of the American College of OB/GYN in VA.
During his career, he served on staff at Norfolk Community, Norfolk General, Leigh Memorial, DePaul, and Portsmouth General Hospitals. He delivered generations of families and his reward was healthy babies, relieving patient suffering and being a patient advocate. Dr. Willie was the voice of the underserved while he supervised and treated patients. He obtained a federal grant to do pap smears for indigent woman while he directed and worked in the prenatal clinic at Norfolk Community Hospital. He continued a successful practice for over 40 years until his retirement in 1997.
His professional affiliations included Fellow of American College of OB/GYN, National Medical Association, Norfolk Academy of Medicine, Old Dominion Medical Society, Virginia Medical Society, Norfolk Medical Society, Southern Medical Association, former member of the Executive and Admissions committee of the Department of OB/GYN at Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS), Virginia OB/GYN Society and Co-founder of the Hampton Roads Urban League.
Dr. Willie was a Lifetime member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Beta Kappa Chi Honor Society, Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Beta Lambda Boule’, The National Association of Guardsmen, Norfolk Chapter, H-M Club of America, the Eureka Club, Portsmouth, VA and L.D. Britt Scholarship Committee.
JO married his beloved wife, Mary Coleman Willie in 1954 in a union lasting for 57 years until she preceded him in death in 2010. They loved to travel, eat, enjoyed gatherings with their family and friends and raising their dogs. While they did not have any biological children, they were parent figures to many young people. They had the unique gift of giving and not expecting anything in return. His brother Earl and sister Martha also preceded him in death.
He leaves to cherish his memory , a brother Charles Willie (TX), devoted nieces and nephews, cherished friend, Joan Edwards, (Portsmouth,VA), Godson, Dr. James Holley, IV ( Lisa, Suffolk, VA), Gregory White, Linda Smith and numerous loving and caring family and friends.