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Dr. Hunter Holmes McGuire (1835-1900) of Virginia, noted physician and educator

Hunter Holmes McGuire, M.D. (October 11, 1835 – September 19, 1900) was a physician, teacher, and orator. He started several schools and hospitals which later became part of the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) in Richmond, Virginia. His statue sits prominently on the grounds of the Virginia State Capitol. Nearby, the McGuire Veterans Administration Medical Center is named in his honor.


Youth and education

Hunter Holmes McGuire was born in Winchester, Virginia to a prominent eye surgeon, Dr. Hugh Holmes McGuire and his wife Eliza. Young Hunter was one of 7 children. He often accompanied his father, and studied medicine at the Winchester Medical College where he graduated in 1855. His continuing medical education in Philadelphia was interrupted by the onset of the hostilities which led to the American Civil War. He taught briefly at Tulane University in New Orleans before joining the Confederate Army in 1861.

Civil War

Dr. McGuire joined "The Winchester Rifles," company F of the 2nd Virginia Infantry, Confederate Army, as a private. However, his services were much more valuable as a doctor rather than a front line soldier. McGuire was made a brigade surgeon and was ordered to report to General Thomas J. Jackson at Harpers Ferry. Jackson initially scoffed at McGuire's youth, but the two became very close as the war progressed. Dr. McGuire treated General Jackson after the First Battle of Manassas, where the General picked up the nickname "Stonewall Jackson" following an exclamation by General Barnard E. Bee Jr. (who himself was killed during the battle).

In 1862, McGuire was promoted to the chief surgeon of Jackson's Corps, serving in the Army of Northern Virginia under its Medical Director, Dr. Lafayette Guild. In May 1863, Jackson was gravely wounded by friendly fire near Chancellorsville and Dr. McGuire amputated his left arm in a vain attempt to save his life. Jackson died of pneumonia a few days later. His last words were recorded by Dr. McGuire as: "Let us cross over the river and rest beneath the shade of the trees". The death of Jackson affected McGuire greatly. He would always remember Jackson with the deepest reverence and served as a pallbearer in Stonewall's funeral. At the Battle of Gettysburg two months later, Dr. McGuire amputated the leg of General Isaac R. Trimble after Pickett's Charge. He later served under General Richard S. Ewell and General Jubal Early. After the War, McGuire contributed to the original (first) of the Geneva Conventions, which is why the Boston Medical Journal said in his obituary that he had "humanized war."

Post Civil War

After the Civil War ended in April 1865, Dr. McGuire returned to Richmond, Virginia where he became chair of surgery at the Medical College of Virginia. He married Mary Stuart of Staunton, Virginia in 1867. They had nine children, many of who followed in his footsteps into medicine, notably Dr. Stuart McGuire. They maintained a summer residence just west of Richmond in Bon Air. Dr. McGuire was president of the American Medical Association and numerous other organizations. He has been described as a brilliant administrator, a gifted teacher and orator, and also wrote prolifically.

He founded St. Luke’s Hospital and Training School for Nurses, helped found the Medical Society of Virginia, and in 1893, he started the College of Physicians and Surgeons, later University College of Medicine.

A leader in the eugenics movement McGuire was concerned with the control or reduction of ethnic minorities. While the president of the American Medical Association, in an effort to provide a forum for these theories, McGuire published an "Open Letter" in the Virginia Medical Monthly:

In an 1893 "open letter" published in the Virginia Medical Monthly, Hunter Holmes McGuire, a Richmond physician and president of the American Medical Association, asked for "some scientific explanation of the sexual perversion in the Negro of the present day." McGuire's correspondent, Chicago physician G. Frank Lydston, replied that African-American men raped white women because of "[h]ereditary influences descending from the uncivilized ancestors of our Negroes." Lydston suggested as a solution to perform surgical castration, which "prevents the criminal from perpetuating his kind."[1]


Dr. Hunter Holmes McGuire is immortalized by a statue by American sculptor William Couper placed on the grounds of the Virginia State Capitol in 1904, which is 2 blocks from his beloved hospital. The inscription upon it reads:

Hunter Holmes McGuire, M.D., L.L.D. President of the American Medical and of the American Surgical Associations; Founder of the University College of Medicine Medical Director, Jackson's Corps, Army of Northern Virginia. An Eminent Civil and Military Surgeon and Beloved Physician. An Able Teacher and Vigorous Writer; A Useful Citizen and Broad Humanitarian, Gifted in Mind and Generous in Heart, This Monument is Erected by his Many Friends.

In 1913, his University College of Medicine became part of the Medical College of Virginia (MCV). McGuire Hall was named in his honor at that time. The following year, his son Dr. Stuart McGuire, was named president of the combined institution, a leading medical center. In 1968, MCV became part of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). The Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Administration Medical Center in Richmond was named in his honor. It was the first VA hospital to perform heart transplants. The McGuire VA Hospital, as it is known locally, has a full range of health care services ranging from comprehensive outpatient care to complex inpatient services such as heart, liver and lung transplantation, and care of traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries. The medical center has 427 operating beds, which includes acute care, spinal cord injury, mental health services and a skilled nursing home. Dr. McGuire's great grandson and namesake, Hunter Holmes McGuire, Jr., while Professor of Surgery in VCU, served from 1976 to 2000 as Chief of Surgical Service in the McGuire VA Medical Center, and president of the Association of VA Surgeons.[citation needed]


  • McGuire, Hunter; Christian, George L. (1907). The Confederate Cause and Conduct in the War Between the States; As set forth in the Reports of the History Committee of the Grand Camp, C.V., of Virginia, and other Confederate Papers. L.H. Jenkins Publisher. 


  1. Dorr, Gregory M. (October 2006). "Defective or Disabled?: Race, Medicine, and Eugenics in Progressive Era Virginia and Alabama". Fremont, OH: Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. pp. 359–92. ISSN 1943-3557. OCLC 54407091. 


Additional reading

  • Shaw, Maurice F. (1993). Stonewall Jackson’s surgeon Hunter Holmes McGuire: a biography. Lynchburg, Virginia: H. E. Howard. ISBN 9781561900473. 
  • Schildt, John W. (1986). Hunter Holmes McGuire: Doctor In Gray. Chewsville, Maryland: Antietam Publications. ISBN 9780936772059. 
  • Eugenics in the United States
  • Racial Integrity Act of 1924

External links

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