Wake Forest Baptist’s first employee leaves legacy that still benefits patients

olivia hall spotlight
Olivia Hall at her desk at North Carolina Baptist Hospital

Shortly before North Carolina Baptist Hospital opened in 1923, Miss Olivia Hall served as an assistant to the hospital administrator, Rev. G.T. Lumpkin. Upon the official opening on May 28, 1923, she became the first employee hired.

For the next 42 years, until her retirement in 1965, Hall performed an astonishing variety of duties: She handled patient room assignments, admitted patients, escorted them to their rooms, filed charts, kept financial records, handled billing and collections, prepared the payroll, and served as secretary to the superintendent. She could also be seen daily walking the hospital’s deposits uptown to Wachovia Bank. Even in retirement, Hall came to the hospital nearly every day, greeting former co-workers and patients from the information desk.

“Her loyalty was peerless,” said one colleague, the Rev. George Bowman III of the Department of Pastoral Care. “She lived for the hospital, and the hospital family was her family.”

She was described by others as “thrifty, careful, and accurate,” but “extraordinarily generous” might be just as fitting. During her lifetime, Hall was known to help out financially when help was needed; a 1974 article from the Winston-Salem Journal, for example, describes a gift she made to support overseas study, and it pictures her with one of the students who benefited.

When she died in 1977 at the age of 89, she left her entire estate of $321,650 and her home on Queen Street to the hospital.

Later that same year, a portion of Hall’s unrestricted gift was set aside to purchase, install and maintain a closed-circuit television network broadcasting medical information, educational programming and even worship services, live from Davis Chapel, directly to patient rooms. It was known as TV5. A hospital newsletter from the era pictures hospital volunteers delivering hot coffee and Moravian buns to a patient participating in a Moravian love feast without leaving her hospital bed.

The medical center’s broadcast system has seen many improvements over time, and certainly much has changed in three-plus decades. But one thing remains constant: Olivia Hall’s generous gift continues to inform patients and visitors today.

Photo courtesy of Wake Fores University/Coy C. Carpenter Library

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Last Updated: 01-31-2014
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