Dr. James Mebane Robertson, M.D.

As I’ve continued searching for information related to the Trivette Clinic, I remembered a source I have on my own bookshelf- the now out of print Iredell County Heritage Books published in the year 2000.
Volume II of this set has articles for both Dr. Trivette and Dr. Robertson, and I wanted to include a portion of them both, starting with the article about Dr. Robertson.

DR. JAMES MEBANE ROBERTSON, M.D.

Dr. James Mebane Robertson served the greater Harmony area as a distinguished country physician and community leader for sixty years. Retired and working on a book about his life and medical practice, he died November 26, 1998, only a few days following the death of his beloved wife Ann.
He was born August 4, 1906 in Olin Township at Charles where his parents W.L. and Augusta Weisner Robertson operated a country store, cotton gin and farm. His grandparents, J.J. and Sarah White Robertson had raised a large family and made a living the same way two miles north on Olin Creek. He was the second of four children: Bristol, Mebane, Juanita and Barbara. Dr. Robertson acquired his early education at nearby Hopewell Grade School and then Harmony High School. From 1925 to 1930 he studied at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, taking an AB degree and two years of medicine. By 1932 he had received his M.D. at Temple University (Philadelphia) and the following year completed his intern- ship at Hamot Hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Returning home in 1933 he found that an office had been built for him in Charles (still stands today) where he would operate a family practice until he married in 1934 and moved over to Harmony. Marriage came about through a fortuitous incident, which occurred while he was working with Dr. William A. Trivette at the Trivette Hospital in Eagle Mills. A young Wilkes County schoolteacher, Ann Jones, had driven a patient down to the hospital. While Dr. Trivette treated the patient from Wilkes Co. and his young protégé finished up a tonsillectomy, Miss Jones discovered she had a flat tire. As soon as Dr. Robertson heard of her misfortune he graciously volunteered to help her resolve the matter and from that moment on a lifetime relationship was in the making Doctor and Mrs. Robertson enjoyed sixty four years of marriage. Their only child, James M. Robertson, Jr lives in Charlotte with his wife Jeanie and is a pilot with US Air. Their children are James Robertson, III, Michelle Robertson Rogers, Tommy and Kenneth Butts.

Dr. Robertson was a country doctor and that is the way he had planned it. It was his ambition to gain an education, earn a medical degree and return to his community and serve it to the best of his ability. His practice extended over most of Iredell and much of Wilkes, Yadkin and Davie counties. When word reached him of someone in need of medical attention he would soon be on his way regardless of weather, distance or time of day.
Stories abound about the arduous travel, interminable hours and gratis efforts extended to his patients. Most of the families served were life long residents of the area. A Wilkes county man tells of his long acquaintance: “Four generations of my family were served by Dr. Robertson…he visited my grandmother daily for a year or more“. A Rocky Creek daughter remembers when her mother suffered a stroke: “He came everyday with a nurse and a cardiograph machine“. From the New Hope community: “…he told my father he would keep my mother going to a hundred… my brothers thought there was nobody like Dr. Robertson“. A diabetes patient near Union Grove: “I believed him and I’ve always followed my diet, taken my medication and managed very well“.

Dr. Robertson’s former office. His home sat on the lot behind it, but was torn down in 2017.
The small plaque and flag was placed by the local Ruritans in honor of Dr Robertson.

From the Harmony area, a man in his fifties proudly declares that Dr. Robertson delivered not only him but his brother and sisters as well. As a child he would contract rheumatic fever but was treated successfully. However, in 1985 he came to the doctor’s home late at night with chest pains. It was soon determined that he had a serious heart condition probably resulting from his childhood bouts with rheumatic fever. Baptist Hospital was called as the patient admitted immediately, “Dr. Robertson saved my life“.

A prominent Statesville druggist reminisced about his long professional association with Dr. Robertson: “I prepared medicine for him in bulk so that he could ‘dispense from the bag’ to his patients. One afternoon late he called from over in Davie County, ‘Fred, I’m almost out of medicine, I’ll be by in a little while’. Closing time came and went but I remained in the store and waited, knowing he needed the medicine for his patients. Around ten o’clock he arrived and apologized but hurriedly added ‘there’s a mother in labor up in Wilkes County and I must get there tonight. As he climbed into his muddy sedan and drove away I could see a calf in the backseat. The animal had been tendered in payment for services somewhere along the way. Mebane often said that he never billed his patients“.

Dr. Robertson by his own account in 1984 had delivered 3,500 babies with most of the births occurring in the homes. It is said that on one spectacular day he delivered five babies in 31 hours. For many years he managed this incredible pace with the aid of a driver (cousin Ethel’s husband Flake White) who drove the car to the next patient’s place while the doctor grabbed a quick nap and brief respite. Margaret White Howard (cousin Ethel’s daughter) remembers her high school days when during the summers she became a driver for the doctor. She tells of long nights out on rural roads and in humble homes without running water or electricity assisting the doctor. “Someone had to boil the water, hold the light” as he peered down infected throats and ears or delivered a child.
The doctor drew no lines when it came to providing medical attention for those who needed it; “he wanted to help everyone”, recalls Will Summers of Harmony. “When I think of him it’s like Psalm 1:3 ‘Like a tree he grew strong and tall to bear much fruit‘”.

Dr. Robertson was a Charter Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians.
He was a Member of the American Medical Association and the NC Medical Association from the beginning of his practice. In the 1950’s Dr. Robertson served as the Medical Director of the Norfolk and Western Railroad. In 1983 he received the
Recognition Award for 50 Years service from the Iredell County Medical Society. It
was his nature to remain informed of the most recent medical advancement and
traveled regularly throughout the nation to medical conferences and conventions.
Dr. Robertson’s service to community extended beyond his medical practice. He
and Dr. Earnest Ward were co-chairmen in establishing the Iredell County Health Center in Harmony. He served as Mayor of Harmony from 1973-75, a member and an elder of the Presbyterian Church. A Mason and Shriner, he was Past Master of the Harmony Masonic Lodge. He was recognized a number of times for his civic efforts including a reception in 1979 by the North Iredell Jaycettes, an honors dinner at the Harmony Masonic Lodge recognizing 50 years membership and the Harmony Ministerial Association in 1991 at the time of his retirement.

For more information about Dr Robertson, see the Trivette Clinic sources page.

Published by Abandoned NC

I went back to my old home and the furrow of each year plowed like surf across the place had not washed memory away. -A. R. Ammons

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