George R Ferguson Sr.

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George R Ferguson Sr. with his son and daughter as photographed by Rufus W Holsinger in 1917. Reproduced from UVA Today.

Dr. George Rutherford Ferguson Sr. (1878 – 1932) was a physician and prominent member of Charlottesville's Black community in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He was also the father of George R Ferguson Jr., who played a key role in the area's Civil Rights movement during the 1950's.


Ferguson was born around 1878 in Ohio. He married Luella B Ferguson (August 15, 1875 - April 9, 1924) of Washington, D.C. on November 9, 1904 and had one son and one daughter (named Louise) with her. After Luella's death, Ferguson eventually remarried to Eva S Ferguson in 1929, with the latter individual belonging to Albemarle County's Sammons family.

Ferguson worked as a physician in Charlottesville and sent his son out of state for school, as the city did not possess high quality black schools at the time. On February 22, 1917, Ferguson and his son and daughter were photographed in formal attire by Rufus W. Holsinger, with this picture later being featured in the “Visions of Progress: Portraits of Dignity, Style and Racial Uplift” exhibit of Holsinger's photographs that was on display at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library from 2022-2023. This picture is also on display inside Mel's Cafe, which currently occupies the site where Holsinger's studio once stood.

From around 1909 to 1929, Ferguson lived at 307 West Main Street. He subsequently moved to 206 Sixth Street NW, where he saw patients in the lower level office. Because it was illegal at the time for a White doctor to come to a Black person's house, any such individual who needed a doctor would have to call him and pray that he was available. Ferguson was also very active in the Republican Party in Charlottesville (as well as at the national level) until 1920, when the Republicans removed their Black members from official representation as part of the "lily white" movement.[1]

Ferguson died on December 7, 1932 in Charlottesville. He was buried at the Sammons Family Cemetery in Albemarle County.

Marriage and family

Ferguson's first wife, Luella, was the daughter of Mary Louisa and John Mifflin Brown, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) bishop. Although she never attended school, she was nonetheless able to read and write. She died in her hometown of Washington, D.C.

Ferguson's son, George R Ferguson Jr., operated a funeral home in Charlottesville and served as president of the local NAACP chapter, leading efforts to desegregate local schools and the University of Virginia Health System. His daughter, Olivia, was invited to the White House in 2013 and met with President Obama in appreciation for her help in desegregating Virginian schools.[2]

Ferguson's daughter, Louise, married and eventually became a librarian in Cleveland, Ohio.

Ferguson's second wife, Eva, was the daughter of Jesse and Lula Sammons of Albemarle County.[3]