Dr. Robert Joseph Pershing Foster

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Birth of Robert Joseph Pershing Foster

December 25, 1918

Pershing was born to Madison and Ottie Foster in Monroe, LA. He was the youngest of four, in order, Madison (Doctor), Leland (aka "Woo"), Emylin (aka "Gold"). Emylin twin sister, Evelyn died as an infant.

Pershing Starts Moorehouse College

September 1937

After attending Leland College for 2 years after high school, Pershing starts Moorehouse College.

Met Alice Clement

April 1939

Pershing met Alice at choir practice. She is the daughter of a wealthy family. Her father was the president of Atlanta University. He had doubts about Pershing's ability to fit into the bourgeois lifestyle that he lived and his daughter was raised in, but Pershing won him over.

Pershing enters Meham Medical College

September 1939

Robert Joseph Pershing Foster marries Alice Clement

December 23,1941

They married on Alice's parents 22nd anniversy

Alberta Ann Foster (aka Bunny) was born

December 1943

Pershing graduates medical school

June 1945

Pershing finish's med school and moves to St. Louis to do his residency. Alice and Bunny stay with Alice's parents in Atlanta

Alice Emlyn Foster (aka Robin) was born

October 1945

Pershing joined the Army

1949

Pershing was promised a head surgeon position in Austria as a member of the United States Army. Jim Crow followed him there, as his commanding officer was from Mississippi and told him there were no head surgeon position. He was able to make a name for himself in the Army because he was smart, charming and a talented doctor.

Pershing returned from the Army

February 1953

When Pershing left the Army, he returned to the South where his service didn't make a difference. He was still living within Jim Crow. He didn't want to return to Atlanta because Alice's parents already had too much say in their lives and he refused to be a doctor in Monroe because he could not practice in the town hospital.

Pershing Leaves to California

April 7, 1953

As Pershing makes the trip out west he discovers that along the way he realizes that racism is still rampant even when Jim Crow is not in effect. He is denied lodging in New Mexico and Arizona. He makes it to San Diego and is able to take a shower and shave for the first time since New Mexico.

Robert takes a job with insurance company

May 1953

Robert was having a hard time establishing himself in LA as a surgeon and so he took a job with an insurance company to try and make ends meet and establish himself. Although he felt it was "below him" he became someone that patients wouldn't forget in order to make a name

Alice and the girls move to LA

June 1953

Alice moved to Los Angeles with Robert, but it wasn't smooth. They had been married 12 years but had not lived together as husband and wife. It was a constant reminder to Robert that they came from different stations in life and that chasm was deep and wide. Robert felt that Alice's parents were still running his household.

Robert gets admitting privilages

1955

In mid to late fifties, Robert is given admitting privileges to most of the hospitals. He is still plagued with the differences between himself and the white doctors when they talk about Vegas and other privilages they enjoy that he can't.

Robert goes to Vegas

June 1955

Robert, and 12 others, were able to go to Vegas (a previously segregated town). He had heard the other doctors talk about it, and wanted to go so bad. He did initially suffer the same indignity he had on his way to California but eventually they got a room at the Sands Hotel and were able to enjoy themselves.

Joy Foster is born

December 1955

The Fosters welcomed their third baby girl into the family.

Robert and his family move into a house

April 1956

Robert and the family moved into a house in April of 1956. They moved into an already integrated neighborhood so Robert didn't have to endure the political mess of being the first black family.

Robert meets/treats Ray Charles

1957

Robert meets Ray Charles and becomes his doctor and lifetime friend. Because of their similar background from the hurt they endured in the south.

Madison dies

August 1961

Madison came to California for gallbladder surgery at Roberts request. Madison then died after the surgery because a blood clot had dislodged. Robert blamed himself, as did the people of Monroe and Madison's wife Harriett.

Ray Charles wrote a song about Bob

May 1962

Ray Charles wrote "Hide nor Hair" with Dr. Foster's name in it. Bob's practice took off.

Rufus Clement (Alice's Father) Dies

November 7, 1967

Alice's father died of a heart attack and Alice's mother moved to Los Angeles with Alice and Robert

Robert turns 52

December 25, 1970

Robert, still living with the sting of rejection and Jim Crow throws himself a party for turning 52.

Alice dies

1974

Robert gets sick

1996

Robert gets sick and is diagnosed with cancer. Ray Charles comes to visit and bring him steaks.

Robert has a stoke and goes into a coma

August 3, 1997

Barbra, Dr. Beck's wife, comes to visit Robert after he goes into a coma, showing that they have developed a deep friendship and respect for one another.

Robert Dies

August 6, 1997

Emlyn Foster (aka Gold) dies

December 1997

Gold dies because due to drinking. Robert misses her and always feels like he wanted to protect her but couldn't, not even from herself.

The Great Migration

The Great Migration

1/1/1915 - 12/30/1970

"The Great Migration" was when 6 million African Americans moved from the South to the North and West. This was in part to find suitable employment, but for most to escape the oppression of Jim Crow laws.

Jim Crow

Jim Crow Laws Rule the South

1/1/1863 - 7/2/1964

Emanipation Proclimation

1/1/1863

Civil Rights Act

7/2/1964

LA Riots -

La Riots Ensue

April 29, 1992 - May 4, 1992