By Ralphine Major
He was the only doctor in our rural community; he was kind; and he was Rada’s dad. Rada was my childhood friend from first grade through high school. The country doctor’s qualifications were sufficient for me. Now, it is truly fascinating to learn from Rada and her siblings about the challenges and hardships their father endured on his journey to becoming a doctor.
Alvis David Simmons was raised in Puncheon Camp in Washburn, Tennessee, where his family farmed the rocky valley. Simmons and his five siblings were raised in a one-room log cabin, though another room was eventually added for the kitchen. “Daddy remembered studying by the oil lamp and watching snow blow through the cracks of the logs,” Rada said. “He and his brothers and sisters really did walk miles in the snow to go to school.”
Daughter Sylvia recalls that their father went through the eighth grade twice because Washburn High School was not ready to open, and he did not want to lose what he learned. “Aunt Millie told me Dad ran to school while other brothers and sisters walked,” Sylvia said.
Simmons graduated from Washburn High School and attended Lincoln Memorial University (LMU). “After graduating from LMU, Dad taught and coached at Washburn to save money to go to medical school,” older son David recalls. Then the depression hit, and the aspiring doctor lost all his money in the bank. His uncle, Dr. Willis Idol, loaned him the money for medical school, and Simmons later worked with his uncle. Rada adds, “Daddy also remembered his family growing and selling tomatoes to buy him a train ticket to go to medical school.”
The sacrifices of the man my family knew as “Dr. Simmons” are amazing. It is a joy to share with Focus readers in the coming weeks more about his journey in becoming a beloved country doctor.