George William Stanley Ish, MD

Physician | Class of 1993

George William Stanley Ish, MD, was a prominent black physician in Little Rock who cared for citizens of the capital city and inspired members of both races. He graduated from Harvard Medical School and was instrumental in founding both United Friends Hospital and the J. E. Bush Memorial Hospital, primary centers for the medical care of black patients. He was also largely responsible for the inception of the McRae Memorial Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Alexander, the state’s separate black sanatorium. Physicians of both races held him in high regard, and he was a staff member at predominantly white hospitals in Little Rock.
G. W. S. Ish was born in Little Rock on October 28, 1883, in the house that his parents built at 1600 Scott Street. He was the son of Jefferson G. Ish and Marietta Ish, prominent Little Rock educators. Ish attended high school in Little Rock and graduated from Talladega College in Talladega, Alabama, in 1903, with a Bachelor of Arts degree (BA). From Talladega College, he went to Yale University’s Collegiate Department and graduated in 1905 with a second BA. Ish had originally aspired to become an engineer; but knowing the need for healthcare practitioners, he chose to pursue medicine. He entered Harvard Medical School and graduated with a medical degree in 1909. Dr. Ish served a fourteen-month internship at Freedmen’s Hospital (now Howard University Hospital) in Washington, D.C., after which he returned to Little Rock to practice general medicine with a surgical specialty.
Dr. Ish married Lillie Johnson in 1915, and they had four children: two sons and two daughters. His first wife died in the late 1930s; he married his second wife, Ercell Tucker, in 1941.
Dr. Ish was instrumental in founding the J. E. Bush Memorial Hospital in 1918 and served as both the administrator and a physician there for many years. The hospital was located at 908 Arch Street but closed in 1927. Dr. Ish also served as director of United Friends Hospital, which was founded in 1922 and was located at 714 West Tenth Street. He was director of that institution until his death in 1970. He was also active in the Lena Jordan Hospital, a charity hospital whose second location had been the Ish home on Scott Street.
Additionally, Dr. Ish was a member of the Board of Directors of McRae Memorial Tuberculosis Sanatorium from its establishment in 1923 until its closure in 1967. Through his efforts and persuasion, McRae was the first institution in Arkansas and one of the first in the nation to use isoniazid and streptomycin in the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis.
Dr. Ish was a staff physician at the Arkansas Baptist Medical Center and the St. Vincent Infirmary. He was a life member of both the Pulaski County and Arkansas medical societies. He was a school physician and instructor in health education at Philander Smith College from 1934 to 1965. Dr. Ish was esteemed by the white medical establishment, as evidenced by his membership in largely white medical organizations, which was virtually unheard of at that time.
Dr. Ish lived most of his life in the house his parents built on Scott Street. The house was damaged by fire in 1996, and efforts to rebuild it were unsuccessful. Finally, the house was damaged beyond repair by a tornado in 1999.
Dr. Ish died on March 15, 1970, and he is buried in Haven of Rest Cemetery in Little Rock.

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