Hospital’s First Born Turns 100

DECATUR, Ala. — With her coiffed white hair and red lipstick perfectly matching her sweater and fingernails, Martha Davidson hardly looks like the trailblazer she is.

On August 3, the Decatur woman turned 100, a celebration that marked a milestone for Decatur Morgan Hospital. On that date in 1916, Davidson became the first baby born at what was then called the Benevolent Society Hospital.

“My aunt was the head nurse there when I was born. I’m sure that she convinced my mother to come to the hospital. I was born on my aunt’s birthday and was named after her,” Davidson said.

Before the Ladies Benevolent Society established the two-story, 28-bed brick hospital in 1915, most women, like Davidson’s mother, gave birth at home.

“Mama’s older brother, my uncle, was born at home. That’s just what women did then. It was a very big deal when her mother decided to go to the hospital,” said Davidson’s daughter, Glee Sides. “All of her five younger siblings were born at the hospital.”

Years ago when Davidson volunteered at the hospital gift shop, Trudy Grisham, the recently retired president of the Decatur Morgan Hospital Foundation, showed Davidson the birth book with her name in the first slot.

Davidson currently lives at Riverside Senior Living, the same building where she graduated from Decatur High School in 1933 and earned the title Decatur High Beauty. She remembers when her parents got their first car in the late 1920s, attending church every Sunday with her mother at Austinville United Methodist, meeting her late husband Sophie Davidson on Gordon Drive and raising her two daughters, Sides and Diana Walker.

In 1945, ownership of the hospital, renamed to Decatur General, was transferred to the city and county. Eleven years later, an expansion included the addition of more obstetrical beds. In 1997, the hospital established the Women’s Center on the fifth floor. Last year, Huntsville Hospital Systems moved labor and delivery to the Parkway campus on the Beltline.

“There have been a lot of changes over the years, but one thing I’m sure of is that the hospital has always been a great benefit to the city,” Davidson said.

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