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By Margaret Toal
For the Record 

Dr. Wynne Pearce did home deliveries

 

Last updated 11/14/2023 at 7:49pm

Dr. Wynne Pearce 1920

Orange County has a history record that remains unknown, but people who grew up here in the 20th Century will never doubt the record-holder's name. Dr. Wynne Pearce delivered more babies than anyone else.

When he was asked in 1966 about how many babies he had delivered, he replied "thousands." He was 70 years old at the and had decided to stop the obstetrics part of his family practice, according to the Las Sabinas Historical Journal of the Orange County Historical Society.

Hundreds of those babies, mostly boys, but some girls, had either the first or middle name of Wynne in honor of the doctor who delivered them.

Dr. Pearce, when announced he would no longer deliver babies, was also asked if he was retiring. He emphasized he was not, and he never did. Dr. Pearce kept going even after having hip surgeries in 1971 and 1972 that left him unable to get around. Instead of retiring, he got an electric wheelchair and continued to see patients at his office. Everyone at the old Orange Memorial Hospital called him "Ironsides," after a popular TV detective who used an electric wheelchair.

He is still a legend in Orange, even after his death 44 years ago. He had died in his sleep at his house at 812 Pine Avenue at the age of 82.

Dr. Pearce grew up in Orange and traveled the world during World War I and then on a traveling ship-hospital taking care of poor people. But he came back to Orange to practice medicine.

He was born November 16, 1896, in Bunkie, Louisiana. His full name was Henry Wynne, with the Wynne in honor of his mother's family. His father was a physician and moved the family to Orange in 1900. Their two-story home at the northwest corner of Pine Avenue and Tenth Street stood until the early 1980s.

Dr. Pearce went to public schools in Orange and was an athlete at Orange High, where he graduated in 1914. After graduation, he went to study pre-med at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.

The United States entered World War l when he was a junior in college, so he enlisted in the army. He served in France for 18 months as a commissioned lieutenant with the 38th Field Artillery.

After the war, he came back to the states and finished his bachelor's degree before entering Tulane to study medicine. He did his internship at the Tennessee Coal & Iron Company Hospital in Fairfield, Alabama.

When he completed his medical degree, he worked on a hospital ship based out of Boston.

He came back to Orange in 1926 and set up an office. He was a member of the staff at Frances Ann Lutcher Hospital between Second and Third streets in Orange. The hospital opened in 1921.

The Las Sabinas story said babies in the 1920s were delivered at homes. A pregnant woman went to the hospital only if she or the baby had medical complications. During his first years in practice, Dr. Pearce made house calls to deliver babies and for other medical services.

He traveled the roads, many of them unpaved, in a Ford Model-T, always carrying his black leather medical bag. People all over Orange County called for Dr. Pearce and his territories went across into Louisiana to the Vinton area.

Dr. Pearce was delivering babies during the huge shipbuilding boom of World War II, when the population went up from 7,500 to an estimated 60,000. Women were having so many babies at the time that even with two hospitals, a home clinic was opened on Green Avenue for deliveries.

By that time, nearly all women were going to hospitals to give birth and few physicians made house calls. Still, Dr. Pearch made some medical house calls for people who he knew needed such a special service.

After the war, Dr. Pearce had his office in an old, one-story, wood-frame house with a porch. The house was on Main behind what is now Stark Park. His office was where the drive up to the Lutcher Theater is today.

His personal office inside had a large wood desk that he sat behind in a swivel chair. On the wall behind him was a bank of wall telephones. Each phone had a direct line to a privately-owned local pharmacy. He would ask a patient what pharmacy they used. Then the doctor gave a call to the pharmacist there and gave the prescription. The pharmacy would later deliver the prescription to the patient's residence.

In the mid-1950s, Dr. Pearce added a color photograph of the actor Andy Griffith with his son, Wynne Pearce Jr. The doctor's son was an actor and was Griffith's understudy in the Broadway play "No Time for Sargents." The actor dropped the 'e' from the end of his name and became Wynn Pearce. He appeared in numerous television shows and later became a respected drama teacher in California.

Dr. Pearce in Orange continued his family medical practice and became co-owner of the Frances Ann Lutcher Hospital before it closed in 1966.

Dr. Pearce was recognized as a local hero in his older years and the Orange City Council in 1973 declared a special "Dr. Wynne Pearce Day."

He died on August 12, 1979. Las Sabinas reported the pallbearers were Traylor Sells Sr., Major Inman Jr., Graham Bruce, Homer Stark, Albert Adams, Edgar Brown III, Wynne Arrington, James Neff, and Tom Rogers. Members of the Orange Conty Medical Society were named honorary pallbearers.

The doctor is buried next to his wife, Edith, in Orange's Evergreen Cemetery.

 

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