By Lydia M. Reid
We’ve discussed at great length about the impressive contribution of the thousands of West Indian working men and laborers who were instrumental in the building of both the Panama Railroad and the Panama Canal and its continued operation into our present day. We would like, however, to highlight the role of the many important professionals who provided many valuable services to both Westindian and Panamanian citizens alike at a time when such professionals were in low supply and high demand.
We’ve gleaned some significant names from an article appearing in the March 2, 1947 issue of the Panama Tribune that also gives a more accurate picture of the bustling Panama of a time when the Republic had a truly West Indian face. It also gives an insight into the staggering blow to these professions and businesses caused by the restrictive “prohibited immigrant” laws of 1941. The article was entitled “Professional Men” and we’ve provided a glimpse in the following excerpt.
“The consolidated position of the West Indian in the upper stratum of Isthmian society was established prior to the early 1930’s when the number of professional men of this group was large and varied.
West Indian professional men stood high in the esteem of their fellow men and were profoundly respected by the leaders of other ethnic groups. They led their community social and civic life. In them the West Indian community exemplified its qualities of intelligence and leadership in fields other than common labor. However, nationalism arose to dissolve a condition that made such men possible.
The Republic ceased to be a country practicing genuine social democracy, and restrictive legislation affecting the practice of non-Panamanian professionals, appeared on the statute books.
From 1900 to 1925 West Indians practicing medicine in Panama included Dr. Edward Stanley Mason, Dr. Peter McDonald Milliard, Dr. Felix Ethelbert Lowe, Dr. Gilbert Henry Thomas, Dr. David S. Ogilve, Dr. J. Barnes, Dr, James Fitzosbert Anderson, Dr. Alexander McIntyre Fyfe. The last named still maintains offices in the city.
In Colon, medical practitioners included Dr. James Amos Paddyfoot, Dr. Nathan Constantine Roe, Dr. Norman Brewster, Dr. Louis S. Meikle, Dr. Seymore Williams, Dr. Henry Clarence Segree, Dr. H. Clarence Edwards (in photo), Dr. Joseph Hamlet, Dr. Anderson Chubb, and Dr. Hubert E. Edwards. The last three are continuing to serve the Atlantic side community.
In dentistry there have been in Panama City Dr. John Watson Hearne, Dr. Chas. Allan Bailey, Dr. Gerald Mortimer Gittens, Dr. Herbert Williams, Dr. Guy Lord, Dr. A. G. Connell, Dr. S. O. G. Johnson, and Dr. Leo S. H. Pink. Those in Colon were Dr. William Crosby, Dr. Norman S. Evans and Dr. Ferd A. Sterling, the only surviving West Indian dentist on the Isthmus.
Only Babbington Simmons remains of the several West Indian pharmacists who practiced their profession in Panama City. Joseph Brown, Joseph Patrick Grant, William George Nelson and several others practised in the City of Colon.”
We will continue to follow the role of the many other professionals in Panama’s cultural, economic and political history in upcoming posts.