The first administrator at Northern Hospital of Surry County has died.
John Lockhart, 89, had been living in Wilson in recent years, but spent most of his adult life in Mount Airy, overseeing the hospital from the time of its construction in 1956-57 to 1991, 35 years of service.
The Hillsborough native had a bachelor’s degree in commerce and a master’s degree in public health from UNC Chapel Hill; he also had a certificate in hospital administration from Duke.
He was only 30 years old when he and wife Alice moved to Mount Airy in 1956.
Three years earlier, Martin Memorial Hospital, on the corner of Cherry and Gilmer streets, was destroyed by fire. Later that year, voters approved a referendum to raise funds for a new hospital and the Martin Memorial School of Nursing.
In 1957, the new hospital opened with 98 beds, 23 more than the previous one. The nursing school opened the next year next to the hospital and operated for about 15 years until a new nursing program began at Surry Community College.
“We are saddened by the loss of Mr. John Lockhart, longtime administrator to Northern Hospital of Surry County,” said Ashly Lancaster, who handles hospital communications.
“Mr. Lockhart served as Northern’s first administrator, a position he held for 34 years. During his time at Northern he oversaw the creation of the hospital’s intensive care/coronary unit in 1969, the first of such facilities in a rural community hospital, as well as the addition of a 24-hour emergency department and physical therapy service. Over the next several years he would lead the staff as the hospital underwent major construction additions and service lines established.”
In 1974, there was a 14,000-square-foot expansion to the north wing. In 1985, the hospital had increased its patient capacity to 160 beds, and most of the building had been refurbished.
“Mr. Lockhart was the hospital’s instrumental leader in obtaining Northern’s first Joint Commission accreditation, the present-day nationwide symbol of quality and compliance for hospitals,” said Lancaster.
“He is remembered by those who worked with him as being kind, a good listener and a great decision maker. One former employee had this to say, ‘Mr. Lockhart was totally dedicated to our community and hospital. He was a kind and gentle leader. He gained the respect of all the hospital employees with his fair decisions. He really was loved by the people he led.’”
When he retired from the hospital in 1991 at age 65, Lockhart looked for a new undertaking to occupy his time.
“He is also remembered for being community minded, and it was not surprising his new venture following his time at Northern led him to help begin Surry Medical Ministries,” said Lancaster.
Lockhart was a founder, along with Dr. John Chang and Dr. Roger Kerley, of Surry Medical Ministries, a free clinic open to local residents without health insurance.
In addition to his hospital duties, Lockhart served on the board of directors of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of N.C., Local Government Federal Credit Union and the N.C. Hospital Association.
He was active in many civic organizations including Rotary and Kiwanis, and was a longtime member of Central United Methodist Church, where he was a Sunday School teacher and sang bass in the choir.
“Throughout the latter part of Mr. Lockhart’s tenure at Northern, his loving wife Alice served for what was then known as the Northern Hospital Auxiliary for about 20 years,” said Lancaster.
The family asked that in lieu of flowers, those who remember John make a donation to Surry Medical Ministries at 813 Rockford St., or to his former church at 1909 N. Main St.
Jeff is the associate editor and can be reached at 415-4692.