Cone Health apologizes, honors Dr. Alvin Blount

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Cone Health apologized to Dr. Alvin Blount for discrimination and segregation in the hospital's history at an event honoring him Thursday night.

Blount was one of 10 who filed a lawsuit against Moses Cone and Wesley Long Hospitals in 1962 in an effort to allow African-Americans to work and be treated at the hospital.

"We had men who met all the qualifications to be a staff member except one, we weren't white," Blount said. "We had tried almost everything in the world, and I use the term when we got mad enough, then we sought relief from the courts," he said.

At first, the court ruled in favor of the hospitals, but in their first appeal, the 4th Circut Court ruled that "separate but equal" did not apply to hospitals getting public funding.

"Looking at Cone Health today and looking at Cone Health yesterday there's an 180-degree turnaround," Blount said.

After the decision, hospitals around the country were opened to black physicians and patients.

The Cone Health community honored Dr. Blount and the other plaintiffs with a pledge of $250,000 in scholarships for students looking to go into the medical field. They also gave what they described as a long overdue apology.

"It's kind of surreal. I mean I had no idea what the real impact was going to be on me personally," said Cone Health Medical and Dental Staff President Dr. James Wyatt. Wyatt said he and other African-American doctors owe their careers to Blount.

Blount, who still practices medicine, says now the community needs to keep moving forward, "no matter how you have been hurt you are able to lay them aside and join hands just as one America," he said.