Physician Fred Alsup dies at 88

Published April 12, 2002|Updated Sept. 3, 2005

Upon arriving in St. Petersburg to begin a career of healing, Dr. Fred W. Alsup found a city split by race.

It was 1950 and changes were brewing in the segregated community. He soon found himself thrust into the forefront of the city's civil rights movement. Often he put up the bail for students jailed for protesting. He marched in the streets to integrate downtown businesses.

Dr. Alsup, who died Thursday (April 11, 2002) at Bayfront Medical Center, successfully sued the city in 1955 to force integration of Spa Beach and Spa Pool. He was a pioneer in the integration of the hospital in which he died.

At 88, he had battled kidney, lung and heart problems, said his son, Fred Jr. He was admitted to Bayfront on Monday and died after surgery, his son said.

When he closed his practice last September, he was said to have been the city's oldest black physician.

A Nashville native, he came here from Tallahassee after serving as head of student health activities at Florida A&M University.

"Tallahassee was racially messed up," he recalled in 1998. "The racial atmosphere drove me out of northern Florida."

In his new hometown, he joined with five other African-Americans _ Ralph Wimbish, Willet Williams, Naomi Williams, Chester James Jr. and Harold Davis _ to file suit to open the swimming spots at Spa Beach and Spa Pool.

The Supreme Court ruled in their favor in 1957, but the battle wasn't over. During 1958 city officials closed the beach and pool several times rather than let black people use them.

By 1959 the issue was fading, partly because the white tourist industry downtown felt closing the facilities would hurt their pocketbooks more than integration would.

Dr. Alsup, the first black doctor to receive full membership in the Pinellas County Medical Society and the staff of St. Anthony's Hospital, also was the first physician to admit a black patient to Mound Park Hospital, now Bayfront Medical Center, on Feb. 25, 1961.

Black patients then were treated at Mercy Hospital, white patients at Mound Park.

"I got tired of the separation and felt we should do better," he said. "We didn't need the black hospital, and the white doctors felt the same way. It was a waste of money."

Mound Park Hospital closed in 1966.

Dr. Alsup received a bachelor's degree and master's degree from Fisk University. With a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania, he built an early reputation as a scientist.

Later, when Fisk became the first predominantly black school to be awarded a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, Dr. Alsup and historian John Hope Franklin were the first inductees.

But when he was drafted into the Army and "they left me a buck private," he decided to become a physician, he recalled in 1985.

With a medical degree from Howard University, he served as an officer in Army Medical Corps in the 1950s.

He was a member of Bethel AME Church, Alpha Phi Alpha, the NAACP and the National Medical Association.

His wife, Edith, died in 1980. In addition to his son, survivors include two daughters, Carolyn Patricia Alsup, Falls Church, Va., and Peggy Ann Alsup, Nashville; a sister, Margaret Winters, Old Hickory, Tenn.; five grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

McRae Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

_ Information from Times files was used in this obituary.