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An honor for an advocate from hospital's past as its future takes new direction

A large crowd gathered on a Sunday afternoon in August of 1961 for the dedication of what was then Carroll County General Hospital . The hospital officially opened on October 1 of that year.
A large crowd gathered on a Sunday afternoon in August of 1961 for the dedication of what was then Carroll County General Hospital . The hospital officially opened on October 1 of that year. (Photo courtesy of Carroll Hospital)

It was an ironic twist of fate. On Oct. 22, it was announced that Dr. C. Levine Billingslea, one of the earliest proponents of Carroll Hospital Center, would be posthumously awarded the Legacy Award by the Community Foundation of Carroll County.

Then, on Nov. 6, The Baltimore Sun, in an article by Scott Dance and Jon Kelvey, and other media reported that, "The LifeBridge Health system plans to absorb Carroll Hospital Center …"

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Billingslea was arguably one the earliest, and most vocal, proponents for the establishment of the then-Carroll County General Hospital.

His efforts, and those of many others, were rewarded on a hot Sunday afternoon in the summer of 1961. This writer was among many who gathered on the hillside beside the entrance of the hospital on Aug. 27 for the occasion.

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In addition to Billingslea, hundreds of unsung heroes contributed and made personal sacrifices so that the hospital could be built. Community leaders such as Atlee Wampler Jr., F. Kale Mathias, Howard E. Koontz Jr., J. Ralph Bonsack, Scott S. Bair, Nathan Weinstock, A. Earl Shipley, and Charles O. Fisher Sr., were among the 39-member board of directors who started in the 1950s to make the Carroll Hospital Center become a reality.

An Eagle Archives article in 2009 noted that there was talk of the need for a hospital as far back as the 1880s.

There were several attempts to start the process. In the early 1900s, Dr. Henry Maynadier Fitzhugh, a well-known local physician, built his home and physician's office on Ridge Road with the thought that it might become a hospital. In 1917, three private citizens — Dr. Henry M. Fitzhugh, Dr. Lewis K. Woodward, Sr. and Theodore Englar — offered to buy the Montour House on Main Street in Westminster and convert it into a hospital.

"Billingslea started his medical practice in 1919 and as early as 1935 had decided that Carroll County needed a hospital," said Carolyn Babylon [who happens to be my wife] during the Legacy Award presentation.

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Billingslea's grandson, Jeff Scott, a local historian, theologian, and attorney, nominated Billingslea for the prestigious Community Foundation award.

According to a history of the Carroll Hospital Center, 1961-2011, by Margaret O. Kirk, "The hospital delayed opening a month after its dedication ceremony. [M]any hospital officials were afraid to open, pointing to only $11,000 cash left in the bank."

Kirk quotes Fisher, one of the founders, "six of us from the board of directors went to Westminster Trust Co. and signed personal notes for thirty thousand dollars to open the hospital."

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