By Ralphine Major
This column is a milestone—No. 300! In writing each week for the Focus, I have been so blessed to reconnect with “old” friends and meet new ones. A review of pending topics for my true, human-interest stories turned up another segment on the first dentist from Gibbs High School and his journey into the profession which took him and his family far from Corryton. They have shared much of their early years with Focus readers already in my columns through the years. How inspiring and educational to learn about the Perry McGinnis family. They are among the new and dear friends I have met through The Focus who have helped me out numerous times on other stories, as well.
Perry and Carol (Golden) McGinnis welcomed a second son on November 4, 1963. “Roland was born at a time that would soon become one of extended grief and uncertainty for the country,” Perry said. “Roland was 18 days old when President John F. Kennedy (JFK) was assassinated in Dallas on November 22, 1963,” he added.
The retired dentist’s words are like a brief history lesson about some of our nation’s darkest days: “As historic events unfolded with the swearing in of President Lyndon B. Johnson, the return of JFK’s body to Washington, D.C., the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald and his assassination by Jack Ruby, and the State funeral and interring of JFK, Carol and her mother sat for days glued to the TV, each taking turns rocking Roland in the family rocker. This was one of those times that would always be remembered, where we were and what we were doing, a time of celebrating the birth of a son while grieving with our former first family and the country.” I remember. I was a fourth grader, and my brother and I were outside on our farm. Our mother came out to tell us that President Kennedy had been shot. We watched on television all the scenes Perry described above—current events that would become a sad part of our country’s history. One scene that touched the hearts of Americans was little “John-John” saluting as his father’s coffin passed by—a stark contrast to happier times when pictures showed him and Caroline playing in the President’s office.
For Perry and Carol McGinnis, the events marked an unforgettable moment in their lives. “So it was that each of our two sons was born at a time that Carol and I would remember in great detail: Barron with his abdominal surgery and Roland with the killing of a President,” Perry added.
Many Americans were not even born when these tragic events occurred, and today it is hard to imagine that most people did not own a camera then. In a rare photo, the McGinnis family captured a picture of Carol rocking their newborn. So often, the joy of a new life helps bear the loss of others. What significant events in the personal life of a single family and the historic life of a nation.
The McGinnis family moved a second time to Memphis in December 1963 for Perry’s post-doctoral study in oral pathology and subsequent appointment to the University of Tennessee College of Dentistry faculty. The move was made in his dad’s new, red Ford coal truck and came within days after this picture was made. (To be continued)