A version of this story ran last October.
On October 10, 2013, at 8:30 a.m., 81-year-old Dr. Walter P. Lomax Jr. passed away. “So what?” you ask. “What’s the big deal? Don’t old men die every day?”
The big deal, I answer, is that he wasn’t just an old man. The big deal is that he was and is a great man.
Dr. Lomax was a prominent physician, prosperous entrepreneur, and selfless philanthropist. The youngest of four children and a graduate of La Salle University and Hahnemann University Hospital, he opened his first medical office in a row house near his South Philly family home in 1958.
That small-scale clinic expanded over the years to six top-notch medical centers with 22 physicians who provided quality care regardless of income.
A year after establishing Lomax Health Systems (LHS) in 1982, he continued to display his concern for the health of the less fortunate by establishing Correctional Healthcare Solutions, which ultimately treated inmates in 70 jails in 10 states. He proceeded on his quest to help those in need when, in 1989, LHS partnered with an out-of-state company to create Healthcare Management Alternatives, Inc. (HMA), which dispensed health care to inner city Medicaid recipients in South and West Philly.
He served on the Board of Directors of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Universal Companies, and Powernomic Enterprise Corp., which is an aquaculture entity that propagates, cultivates and markets fish, seafood and plants, and is an IPO listed on NASDAQ.
He also was the chairman of the Lomax Companies, which is the corporate umbrella for four companies including real estate investment firm Lomax Real Estate Partners, technology businesses Prime Image and MyArtistDNA, and media enterprise 900AM-WURD. It was in 2003 that he and his wife purchased WURD, which is the only black-owned and -operated radio station in Pennsylvania. They did this, in their own words, “to ensure that Philadelphia would remain a powerful voice in the living history of conscious black radio.”
During that same year, he and she formed The Lomax Family Foundation to make funds available to non-profit organizations engaged in health, educational, artistic, and cultural programs for the African-American community.
But more than any of that impressive business success and community service, he was —first and foremost —a loving family man, the affectionate husband of Beverly for more than 50 years, the devoted father of six, namely Bennett, Charles, Claire, Laura, Sara, and W. Thomas, and the doting grandfather and great-grandfather of 15.
In addition and most notably, he was a conscious African-American who empowered his widespread village by giving powerful voice to the voiceless in active pursuit of powerful solutions.
A lot of his greatness chronicled above is publicly known. But here are 10 things you might not have known about this great man:
1. When he opened his South Philly clinic in 1958, one of his first calls was from a friend whose neighbor was ill. After rushing to make the “house call” (yes – many doctors did that then), the sickly white woman who opened the door took one look at him, realized he was a black physician, then rudely smirked, derisively chuckled, and abruptly slammed the door in his face. Although he was humiliated and angry, he realized that getting even was the only solution. Hundreds of awards, thousands of patients and millions of dollars later, I wonder who got the last laugh.
2. He traveled to Africa several times to raise his consciousness and to promote black self-help business opportunities.
3. In a 1994 expression of real black power, he bought the plantation in King William County, Virginia, where his great-grandmother had been enslaved and where hundreds of other black women, men and children had been held in brutal bondage since 1732.
4. One of his patients in 1968 was Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who, while traveling through town, contracted an upper respiratory infection. Although he was cured at the helpful hands of Dr. Lomax in South Philly, King died just two months later at the hurtful hands of an assassin in the South.
5. He was formally and officially honored in 1998 by the Georgia House of Representatives in SR 764.
6. A local community activist and her family were about to become homeless following a pending eviction. With no assistance available from any public or private source, she called Dr. Lomax – a man she did not know personally. She contacted him only because she had heard that he was a rich black man with a heart. After getting through his secretaries, she reached him. Before she could finish her tale of woe, he told her to come and pick up the check. He saved the lives of that woman and her children on that day. And the only thing he demanded in return was her silence. His humility is legendary.
7. With his donation of nearly $20,000 in the 2008 election cycle, he became one of the early financial contributors to the presidential candidacy of (then pro-black, then pro-poor people, then pro-peace and then pro-civil liberties) Senator Barack Obama.
8. In 1994, he wrote a scholarly and groundbreaking medical article in The Journal of The National Medical Association (NMA) entitled “Medicaid Managed Care in Pennsylvania.” The NMA is an organization founded in 1895 “to advance the art and science of medicine for people of African descent …”
9. Lincoln University in Pennsylvania honored him in 2004 with a Ph.D. in science.
10. At a private meeting in his Chalfont office in 2011, he told “The Angriest Black Man In America” (aka Michael Coard) to continue voicing constructive rage on WURD’s Radio Courtroom program because our people need to know and to fight until the victory is won. “Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!” is exactly what he and Frederick Douglass said.
You can keep the legacy of the great Dr. Lomax alive by finishing what he started. You can do this by becoming a member of WURD’s “900 In 90 Club.” Simply log on to www.900amwurd.com or call 215-425-7875. And keep “Dr. Greatest Personified” in your memory on July 31st by whispering to yourself "Happy Birthday, sir."