Built in 1952, this was the longtime home of Dr. Emery L. Rann, Jr., (3.9.1914 – 9.15.1996), one of Charlotte’s most important physicians and civic leaders, and his wife Margratha. Dr. Rann became a major force in the Civil Rights Movement’s drive to desegregate healthcare across North Carolina and he helped lead the NAACP’s nationwide campaign to open hospitals to all. He was also active in voting rights and was a published poet who wrote the lyrics for the alma mater of Meharry Medical College. When the black National Medical Association elected him President in 1973-74, his views were widely quoted in the national media. Ebony magazine named him one of 1974’s “100 Most Influential Black Americans.”
At Dr. Emery Rann’s death at age 82 in 1996, his funeral program gave a brief overview of his energetic career:
“Dr. Rann was born in Keystone, West Virginia on March 9, 1914. He was the first born of four children and the only son of Emery and Vicie Froe Rann. He received his B.S. Degree in 1934 from Johnson C. Smith University, Charlotte, North Carolina; M.S. Degree from The University of Michigan in 1936; M.D. Degree from Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tennessee in 1948; and an Honorary D.Sc. from Johnson C. Smith University, Charlotte, North Carolina in 1982. He penned the lyrics of the alma mater for Meharry Medical College. He also was a Captain in the United States Army.
“He served as a teacher of science and coach of McClelland Academy, Newnan, Georgia; Stillman College, Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Mary Allen College, Crockett, Texas, and Second Ward High School, Charlotte, North Carolina. He served as President of the Johnson C. Smith General Alumni Association from 1951-1953, and was a member of its Board of Trustees for twenty-one years from 1967-1988. In addition, he served as Chairman of the Imhotep Conference for Hospital Integration from 1964-1969, and as President of the National Medical Association from 1973-7974. From 1989-1997, he served as Regional Sire Archon of Sigma Pi Phi Boulé. Further, he was a member of the Guardsmen and a life member of both the NAACP and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. He was an Elder in Memorial United Presbyterian Church.
“Dr. Rann was the first black physician accepted into the Mecklenburg County Medical Society and the North Carolina Medical Society and one of the first African-Americans to secure hospital privileges at Charlotte Memorial Hospital — three achievements which earned him the reputation as a courageous and effective advocate for civil rights.
“An avid and passionate writer, Dr. Rann compiled and published two manuscripts of his poetry and recollections: Beat of the Tom-Toms and Potpouri.”
As impressive as that obituary is, Dr. Rann’s life was even richer in accomplishment.
From the beginning Emery Rann was brought up to be a person of education and civic leadership. His parents, both educators themselves, sent him to a private school, Bluefield Institute, near where his father was a professor at Bluefield State College in West Virginia. When his father got a job at Johnson C. Smith University in 1927, the family moved to Charlotte. Young Emery enrolled in Second Ward High where he graduated in 1930. Even in the depths of the Great Depression, he did not stray from his educational path. At Johnson C. Smith University he earned a BA in 1934, then immediately want on to graduate work at University of Michigan, gaining a Masters in Biology in 1934.
Rann’s first career was as a teacher. He taught science and served as an athletic coach at McClelland Academy, Newnan, Georgia; Stillman College, Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Mary Allen College, Crockett, Texas. That work brought him back to Charlotte to teach at Second Ward High School.
As he entered his 30s, Rann set his sights on a second career. He won admission to Nashville’s elite Meharry Medical College, one of the top two training grounds for black doctors in the U.S. He graduated in 1948 and returned to Charlotte to open his medical practice. Dr. Rann located his first office at 408 E. First Street in the Brooklyn section, then about 1959 built a modern one-story brick office building at 1001 Beatties Ford Road adjacent to the Excelsior Club, a short walk from his home in McCrorey Heights. In his final years he would move to the Dalebrook Professional Building which he and other African American business leaders developed further out Beatties Ford Road near Memorial Presbyterian Church.
“I’ve always been racially conscious,” he mused to a Duke University interviewer in 1993. As a young man teaching at Second Ward High he first joined the NAACP. “I felt this was a way to participate without being too obvious,” he recalled. But Rann did not stay in the shadows for long. A pivotal moment came at Charlotte’s Sears Roebuck department store. “I went into Sears, went downstairs where they had two fountains. One was white and the other was chocolate colored, colored chocolate for Negroes, and the one, I don’t think it was labeled, for whites only, probably. But, anyhow, I, in my haste I didn’t read the signs. I just grabbed the white fountain and started drinking, and a cop came up behind me and grabbed me. ‘What are you doing, you’re drinking out of this fountain.’ Scared the life out of me.” He became a life member of the NAACP.
As Rann moved into his medical career, his visibility as a Civil Rights activist grew. In 1952, serving as president of Charlotte’s Negro Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees), Dr. Rann joined with the white Jaycee leader for a Get Out The Vote Drive — an audacious effort at a time when voting laws actively suppressed African America political participation.
That willingness to challenge the system while working within it became Dr. Rann’s hallmark. He seldom shrank from the public spotlight. When the White Citizens Council mistakenly sent him a letter inviting him to join the segregationist organization in 1962, he told his Duke interviewer with delight, “I answered by writing a letter to the Observer, stating that I have not joined your Citizens Council, but I’d like to invite you to join the NAACP.”
Rann’s most far-reaching Civil Rights work focused on the medical profession. His funeral program reported: “Dr. Rann was the first black physician accepted into the Mecklenburg County Medical Society and the North Carolina Medical Society and one of the first African-Americans to secure hospital privileges at Charlotte Memorial Hospital — three achievements which earned him the reputation as a courageous and effective advocate for civil rights.” That single sentence encapsulated decades of struggle.
Racial segregation in medical matters hurt African Americans at two levels. Most obviously, it meant the black patients were barred from white hospitals. Charlotte had one of the South’s earliest black hospitals, Good Samaritan, but its facilities never remotely equaled those at city-funded white Charlotte Memorial. Less visible was the behind-the-scenes harm inflicted by segregation of medical societies. In those days before the internet, medical societies with their regular meetings were an important way for doctors to exchange ideas and keep up with the latest science. When white medical societies barred black physicians, it hindered the free flow of ideas — as well as being a calculated insult. The harm deepened during the 1950s. As pressure began to build for desegregation with the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v Board education ruling, hospitals across the South added a new barrier: to become a doctor at a municipal hospital such as Charlotte Memorial, a physician had to be a member of the North Carolina Medical Society. This all-white organization was a private society, thus not affected by Civil Rights laws.
Dr. Rann became a leader of the struggle to open the NC Medical Society to all doctors, and thence to end racial barriers in the hospitals. He started in 1951 by applying for membership in the local Mecklenburg County Medical Society. “All applications were doomed,” he later wrote, “because the application form required the signatures of three members of the society, which were unobtainable at that time.” But a remarkable thing happened three years later. Soon after the U.S. Supreme Court in its landmark 1954 Brown v Board case ruled that segregation in education must end, Dr. Rann got an unexpected phone call. “It was the president of the Mecklenburg County Society informing Dr. Rann that he had been accepted as a member.” Wrote the editor of the black Old North State Medical Journal, “The Walls of Segregation Are Crumbling.”
Excitement at white Charlotte’s progressive response wore off quickly. The statewide North Carolina Medical Association (white) adamantly refused to accept African Americans. So black patients and doctors in Charlotte remained restricted to the small and outmoded Good Samaritan Hospital. The white Association did throw black doctors a bone — “scientific membership” that allowed access to the Association’s journal and some lectures, but not its conferences.
The white doctors maintained that medical biology proved the impossibility of an integrated Medical Association. “They want to dance with us, they want to sit at our banquet tables, they want to associate with us socially,” complained the Society’s president in 1960. “My perspective must necessarily be purely objective,” he assured. “The tiger doesn’t consort with the lion when sundown comes. Each goes to his own den. The fox doesn’t knock on the kennel door to lie down with the hound, though they are closely related. The duck and swan do not fly North together. I do not know that there is any sociologic or biologic law that says we must integrate.”
Hospital access would arrive sooner, thank to long and steady pressure by Charlotte’s black doctors, plus some federal help. “Foremost in the struggle for hospital availability was Dr. Reginald Hawkins, a practicing dentist and minister,” wrote Rann years later, tipping his hat to his McCrorey Heights neighbor. During 1961 Hawkins led “Johnson C. Smith University students in picketing the four hospitals and held a prayer vigil on the front lawn of Memorial Hospital. Memorial had opened 38 beds and Mercy 28 for Negro patients in isolated areas. No black doctor had privileges” — in other words, could not visit patients in the white hospitals.
When marches produced no effect, wrote Rann, Dr. Hawkins appealed directly to U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, brother of President John F. Kennedy. Hawkins pointed out that all the hospitals had utilized federal construction funds under the Hill-Burton Act which required equal treatment. Robert Kennedy, known for his willingness to wield federal power for Civil Rights, arranged for three U.S Health Department officials to visit Charlotte on a fact-finding mission on August 15, 1962. “Immediately Mr. John Rankin, the Memorial administrator, announced that ‘the doors are open to one and all,'” remembered Rann. Dr C.W. Williams became the first African American on staff at Memorial Hospital. In September of 1963, Dr. Emery Rann became the second.
The success did not come without tension inside Charlotte’s black leadership. An Associated Press series “The Deepening Crisis” picked up by many newspapers across the nation in August 1963 juxtaposed comments by Dr. Rann and his McCrorey Heights neighbor Dr. Reginald Hawkins. “Our demonstrations have simply outgrown their usefulness. It is now time we started negotiating with city council. I don’t see what good we can now derive from an ugly incident which could occur during a demonstration,” said Rann. “I served in World War II and Korea and I have no intention of stopping my people’s fight for equal rights. We want those rights now. Not gradually … but now,” said Hawkins. ” Rann’s stance reflected his lifetime of working his way inside the nation’s white institutions, an effective pathway to power. Despite the newspaper quotes, he also valued Reginald Hawkins “outsider” efforts to keep the pressure on.
That combined pressure was still needed; the white Medical Association still refused to integrate. It complained that only two black doctors had accepted “scientific membership,” an afront. “The medical society has gone as far as it could with dignity and honor until they [blacks] take some advantage of the opportunities offered.” Finally in 1964 the continued public protests and private lobbying paid off. Dr. Emery Rann became part of the first group of African American doctors admitted as equals to the North Carolina Medical Association.
Dr. Rann’s leadership in medical desegregation in North Carolina put him in contact with similar-minded activists across the United States. Washington, D.C. surgeon Dr. Montague Cobb of Howard University brought many of those men together annually starting in 1957 in what was known as the Imhotep Conference, sponsored by the NAACP. Dr. Rann chaired the organization from 1964 until it disbanded in 1969. “Imhotep means ‘he who cometh in peace,'” Rann and Cobb explained in an article they wrote for the NAACP’s magazine The Crisis. It was also the name of an ancient Egyptian who had been renowned as a teacher and scientist. “The Imhotep Conference has as its purpose the elimination of segregation in the fields of hospitalization and health.” The organization worked to coordinate efforts of groups that were pushing new laws and filing court cases, and it also lobbied public officials to speak out for change.
In 1973 the black National Medical Society elected Dr. Emery Rann as its president. News outlets across the U.S. sought him out regularly for quotes. The Chicago Tribune, for instance, asked his stance on a proposal to give local governments more say in federal healthcare spending decisions. Dr. Rann forcefully dissented: “When local authority has the option of determining who should be granted funds, the poor and the black are ignored.” Ebony magazine, perhaps America’s most widely read black news source, named Rann to its 1974 list of “100 Most Influential Black Americans.”
Few people could equal Dr. Rann’s enthusiasm for community activity. As a student JCSU he joined the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. The December 1933 issue of its national magazine marveled at his energy: “Upon Brother E. L. Rann, the honor of becoming a member of The University Quintette was bestowed a few days ago. The Quintette may be heard on the air each Monday night at 9:30 over station WBT. Upon Brother Rann another great honor has been bestowed. He was recently elected vice president of the [on-campus] YMCA for the ensuing scholastic year.” He also was president of the Smith Players drama group, a student assistant instructor in Biology, and a varsity halfback on the football team.
In addition to his lifelong participation with Alpha Phi Alpha, Dr. Rann also played a local and statewide role in the Boulé (more formally known as Sigma Phi Phi fraternity), co-founding the Charlotte chapter in 1977. Businessmen in Durham’s North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company launched the state’s first Boulé in 1969 as a meeting ground for fellow business and civic leaders. “Dr. Newsome and I, from Charlotte, were in that group of original members of the Boulé , and of course, we moved out and established our own Boulés here, and Greensboro, Asheville, Charlotte, Winston-Salem,” Dr. Rann told a Duke University interviewer in 1993. “The organization includes men in practically all walks of life who have made contributions in politics, and medicine, and the ministry, and everything…. I was fortunate enough to be elected the southeastern president,” serving as Regional Sire Archon from 1989 to 1997.
Despite the long hours inherent in any medical practice, Dr. Rann made time for extensive civic involvement beyond his fraternities. He served as an Elder at Memorial Presbyterian Church and he sat on the JCSU Board of Trustees for 20 years. In 1965 he and Jimmie McKee, proprietor of the Excelsior Club, launched the “100 Club” to raise money for Johnson C. Smith University. They not only reached their initial goal of $12,500, but within two years had donated $50,000 toward the school’s centennial fund-raising drive.
As medical care finally began opening to all, Rann continued the struggle for Civil Rights on other fronts. He headed a Charlotte Community Council of black leaders in 1963 to battle against expressway plans that affected the Beatties Ford Road corridor. He won a seat on the Board of Trustees of Central Piedmont Community College in 1967 — though one of the white Trustees walked out in protest. In the 1970s he took part in African American cultural festivals that led to creation of the Afro-American Cultural Center (now Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts and Culture).
Always he wrote. In addition to his two published books of verse, he contributed countless poems and essays to mark civic occasions and to remind readers of the nobility of African American history. Even as Dr. Rann worked to end Good Samaritan Hospital’s separate-but-unequal service, he made sure its story was not forgotten, in 1964 publishing a history of “Good Sam” in the Journal of the National Medical Association. In 1990 near the end of his life he found energy to write a carefully researched 20-page retrospective “The Black Physician in Charlotte (A Historical Review),” and deliver copies to medical colleagues and libraries.
Margratha Chambers Rann ( -2.14.1984) was born and raised in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She earned a B.A. degree at Bennett College in Greensboro and became a schoolteacher, first in Winston-Salem then in Charlotte. Upon arriving in the Queen City, she joined what was then Biddleville Presbyterian Church located just off the campus of Johnson C. Smith campus. In the 1960s it relocated out Beatties Ford Road, becoming Memorial Presbyterian, where she served on the Board of Trustees. She was also a trustee of Charlotte’s YWCA. After she and Dr. Rann separated in the mid-1970s, she remained in this house at 2008 Patton Avenue for many years. “Her warm, fun-loving personality made her many friends,” said the obituary in her funeral program. “She enjoyed them in her clubs — the Moles, Holidays, Emanons, Monday Niters Bridge Club and the Eightsome.”
Emery Rann, Jr., and Margratha raised two children in this house: Judith, born in 1944, and Emery III, born in 1952. Emery L. Rann III became an attorney based in Winston Salem, N.C. Like his father, he was tireless in civic involvement. He worked as Director of Mediation Services for Forsyth County, directed a program at NC A&T University that helped black farmers, chaired the board of Greensboro’s highly regarded Sawtooth Center for Visual Arts and pastored Mt. Vernon Presbyterian Church in Woodleaf, N.C.
Dr. Emery Rann’s sister Blanche Rann Oliver, a popular music teacher, built a home nearby in McCrorey Heights. She and husband William Oliver, a biology teacher and later a school administrator, lived two blocks from Emery and Margratha at 1813 Washington Avenue beginning in 1956.
Indeed, Blanche and Emery, Jr’s, parents also resided in McCrorey Heights. Their father Emery L. Rann, Sr., and mother Vicie Rann first showed up in the neighborhood in the 1942 city directory at “2012” Patton Avenue. It is not clear whether that house was the one currently numbered 2000, or an earlier dwelling on the same site. By 1948-49, Mrs. Vicie Rann was listed as a widow who taught at Woodlawn School in rural south Mecklenburg County. She seems to have stayed in that house (eventually renumbered as 2004) through 1953.Emery Rann, Sr., had been born in Michigan to a family that had moved north from eastern North Carolina after the Civil War. Emery, Sr., reversed the journey when he relocated south to West Virginia to teach at black Bluefield State College, where son Emery Jr. came in to the world. The family moved again in 1927 when Prof. Rann got a position at Johnson C. Smith University. The 1940 census showed Emery, Sr., about age 65, sharing a household in Charlotte’s 10th Ward with wife Vicie, age 52, plus son Emery, 26, Bernice, 24 and Blanche, 20. A fourth child, youngest daughter Johnsie, was not listed in the census.
The senior Mrs. Rann seems to have been as remarkable as her physician son. Born in Pocahontas, West Virginia, Vicie Froe Rann (1888 – 1954) lived in Keystone, West Virginia, when she gave birth to Emery Jr., then moved to Charlotte. When her children were grown, she enrolled in college in her late-40s — even more unusual then than it is now. The Pittsburgh Courier, a national African American newspaper that often printed items from Charlotte, carried a photograph of her at Johnson C. Smith University in 1938: “Mrs. Vicie Froe Rann, a member of this year’s graduating class, … has had two children to graduate from Johnson C. Smith University. Both graduated with honors and she herself is an honor student and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Scholastic Fraternity.” She became a teacher, then the principal of Woodlawn School.
One-story Ranch style house in red brick. There is a low gabled main roof and a smaller projecting gable-roofed front wing. The main roof extends outward along the front of the main block of the house, supported by slender “wrought iron” columns, to shelter the small brick front porch and also the large “picture” window — a Ranch characteristic — which has a metal frame that holds a large central pane flanked on each side by a row of five smaller panes. The front wing also has a large picture window with a metal frame divided into twelve panes.
At the rear of the dwelling is a small gable-roofed wing with its own exterior entry, probably built as Dr. Rann’s home office (see 1963 building permit).
This is a very early example of Ranch style architecture in Charlotte. Permit issued in 1951 to Ervin Construction, one of Charlotte’s largest homebuilders in the post-World War II era.
Date issued: November 4, 1963
Owner: Dr. E. L. Rann
Contractor: Southern Construction Co.
Other permit info: addition to residence
Date issued: July 18, 1951
Owner: Ervin Const. Co.
Contractor:Ervin Const. Co.
Other permit info: to build residence
Building permit files, Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.
First appeared in city directory
1952. Emery L. Rann, Jr.
A later directory consulted at random, for 1981, shows:
Mrs. Margratha C. Rann, teacher, living at 2008 Patton Avenue.
Emery L. Rann, physician with office at 1005 Beatties Ford Road, living at 1001 Beatties Ford Road.
City directory collection, Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.
“All Results for Emery L. Rann.” Ancestry.com website. On-line at: http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?gl=allgs&gsfn=Emory%20L&gsln=Rann&gss=seo&ghc=20
“Alpha Omicron Active, Several Brothers Pass,” Sphinx (Winter December 1933), p. 26. On-line at: https://issuu.com/apa1906network/docs/193301902
“Black Farm Program to Expand,” Wilmington Star-News, January 10, 1984.
“Block by Block Campaign to Get Out Vote Planned,” Charlotte Observer, October 2, 1952.
“Board Names Rann: CPCC Post Filled During Walkout,” ” Charlotte Observer, December 12,1967.
“Candidate for Graduation from Liberal Arts College at Johnson C.. Smith University,” Pittsburgh Courier, June 1, 1938. On-line at: www.newspapers.com/image/40111254/
Cobb, W. Montague, “The Hospital Integration Story in Charlotte, North Carolina,” Journal of the National Medical Association (May 1964), pp. 226 – 229. On-line at: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2610795/
“What’s It Like to Be a Negro in America? The Deepening Crisis IX,” Associated Press story in the Bennington (Vermont) Banner, August 8, 1963.
Halperin, Edward C., “Desegregation of Hospitals and Medical Societies in North Carolina,” New England Journal of Medicine (January 1988), pp. 58 – 63.
“Health Care of Blacks Assailed,” Chicago Tribune, August 15, 1973.
“History,” on the website of Gamma Sigma Boulé of Raleigh. On-line at: http://www.sigmapiphi.org/boules/gamma-sigma/history/
“Integration Battlefront,” Journal of the National Medical Association (November 1961), pp. 645-647. On-line at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2642037/pdf/jnma00694-0107.pdf
Johnson, Amos N., “President’s Inaugural Address,” North Carolina Medical Journal (July 1960). On-line at: https://archive.org/stream/ncarolinamed2121960medi/ncarolinamed2121960medi_djvu.txt
“Mrs. Wilkins Hosts Warm Party in Bitter Cold,” Pittsburgh Courier, February 11, 1961. On-line at: www.newspapers.com/image/40272842/
“Memorial Group Oks Dr. Rann as Member,” Charlotte News, September 24, 1963. https://www.newspapers.com/image/619672001
“Negroes Forming New Unit: Rann Heads Group Now Organizing,” Charlotte Observer, September 16,1963.
“Oliver, Mrs. Blanche Rann,” obituary in Greensboro News and Record, February 6, 1996. On-line at: http://www.greensboro.com/obituaries/article_3a867448-8493-5127-8dd4-fa3d043972c0.html
Rann, Emery L., “The Good Samaritan Hospital of Charlotte, North Carolina,” Journal of the National Medical Association (May 1964), pp. 223 – 226. On-line at: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2610783/
Rann, Emery L., Jr., “The Black Physician in Charlotte (A Historical Review),” 1990, self-published manuscript in the collection of the Carolina Room, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.
Rann, Emery L. and W. Montague Cobb, “The Imhotep Conference — Why a Conference?” The Crisis (May 1963). On-line at: https://books.google.com/books?id=qlsEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA274&lpg=PA274&dq=Imhotep+Conference+Rann+Cobb&source=bl&ots=scnClRRCzV&sig=GWIix2A90SnigafPrjfyKDA04d4&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi-0evcgNfTAhWLOCYKHRS9A3sQ6AEIJjAA#v=onepage&q=Imhotep%20Conference%20Rann%20Cobb&f=false
Rann, Emery, Sr., oral history, 1993, Behind the Veil Project, Duke University. http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/behindtheveil_btvnc02045/
Rann, Emery, Sr., 1940 Census listing, on-line at: http://www.archives.com/1940-census/emery-rann-nc-96028537
Shaffner, Louis deS. “Racial Integration in the North Carolina Medical Society.” Journal of the North Carolina Medical Society, 1990 [more info needed]
“Unprecedented Move: Negro Physician Voted into Society,” Charlotte Observer, September 8,1954.