Dr. Louis L. Randall, a retired physician who estimated he had delivered 5,000 healthy babies and was the lone Black student in his 1957 class at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, died of heart failure Dec. 9 at his Pikesville home. He was 89.
Born in Baltimore and raised on Ashland Avenue in East Baltimore, he was the son of Benjamin Randall and his wife, Hilda. He was a 1949 graduate of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School and was class valedictorian.
While at a Dunbar School mixer, a 16-year-old Dr. Randall met his future wife, Marie Byrd, who went on to become a Provident Hospital and school nurse.
“She was from the west side and he was from the east side. That did not stop them from courting,” said his daughter Linda Randall.
Dr. Randall won a state scholarship to Morgan State University where he earned a chemistry degree. He was also a cadet commander in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. He was also made a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
He worked summers at Locke Insulator and at the Sinai Hospital lab. He also worked in the Domino Sugar plant quality control lab.
“He was the first in his family to go to college,” his daughter said.
While working for Domino, he came home one day, having cashed a salary check.
“I threw $79 on the kitchen table and I said to my mother, ‘I am quitting college and I am going to become a sugar … whatever’ and she said, ‘I am going to kill you.’ So that ended that very quickly. I finished college as a chemistry major,” he said in a 2006 oral history prepared at the University of Baltimore.
He was admitted to the University of Maryland School of Medicine. During this time, he encountered racial prejudice when he found he would not be served at a Eutaw Street lunchroom where the white medical students ate.
In the oral history, he recalled that a fellow medical school student inspired him to pursue obstetrics and gynecology. By chance, the school had a new faculty member, Dr. Arthur Haskins, who recognized his potential and often called upon him in class.
“Dr. Haskins changed my life. Without him, I don’t know what I would have done. He mentored me. He built me up. I was very fortunate in getting to know him,” Dr. Randall said in Haskins’s 2016 obituary.
By the time he graduated, he was the only Black student in his class of 100.
“They called me ‘Uncle Lou,’ and there was no social contact. There was even a colored entrance that was carved in stone that’s now gone,” he said.
“When he asked me questions that the white guys didn’t know the answers to and they just sat there and smiled, Dr. Haskins would say, ‘Tell them the answers, Lou,’ and I could feel the lynch mob beginning to gather outside.”
“White patients were not allowed to be examined by Black doctors, and many times they were sent to other hospitals by their physicians,” said Dr. Randall.
“There were separate delivery rooms and wards. One time, we ran out of beds, and I told the nurse to put the Black patient in the room for white patients and she protested,” he said.
He recalled being mistaken for an orderly at the hospital, but gradually gained the trust and confidence of some of the nursing staff.
After earning his medical degree and serving in the Army, he set up a medical practice with Dr. William M. Hall on Liberty Heights Avenue. He soon gained privileges at Sinai Hospital.
He recalled that after that happened, he was able to gain an entry to Bon Secours, Lutheran and other hospitals.
Dr. Randall recalled the 1968 riots that erupted after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“I was delivering a baby at Provident on Division Street and all of the sudden we heard this noise and we looked down the street and they were setting buildings on fire on the next block,” he said. “Just massive fire, all of these people running up and down the street.”
Dr. Randall recruited a fellow obstetrician-gynecologist, Dr. Donald C. Chambers, to join the practice of then Drs. Hall and Randall. With the expansion of adding another partner, the private practice in obstetrics and gynecology was known as Doctors Hall, Randall & Chambers. His partners died several years ago.
In 1969, Dr. Randall and other Black physicians opened the Garwyn Medical Center at Garrison Boulevard and Gwynns Falls Parkway. Its June 1969 dedication was attended by Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel. The speaker was James Farmer, former national director of the Congress of Racial Equality and an assistant secretary in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.
The Morning Sun
The center’s founders met many times in the basement of Dr. Randall’s home on Mohawk Avenue to plan their undertaking for several years before the center’s opening.
Dr. Randall’s children said their father was a busy obstetrician.
“We learned to answer the phone and say, “Call the answering service who would page my father,” said his son, Louis Randall. His daughter, Linda, said, “My father had a large practice and sometimes he’d be gone from Thursday night to Sunday. He would sleep in the hospital.”
Dr. Randall was chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the old Lutheran Hospital. He was also an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
He retired nearly 25 years ago.
Survivors include his daughter, Linda Randall of Honolulu; two sons, Louis A. Randall of Baltimore and Lionel Randall of Chicago; and two grandsons. His wife, a retired Provident Hospital nurse, died in 2019.
A memorial life celebration was held on Dec. 28 at the Concord Baptist Church in Baltimore.