William “Bill” Edward Rowe, M.D. passed away March 12, 2021. He was 90. Bill was a kind and gentle spirit. His life was never about himself. As a doctor, he was known for his attentiveness and warm bedside manner, treating each patient as he would a member of his own family. During his practice—and later, in retirement— he made hospital rounds simply to check in on friends. He never forgot a birthday, put everyone around him at ease, and was grateful for each moment spent with the people he loved. Those who knew Bill often said he was the epitome of a Southern Gentleman.
Born on February 7, 1931, in Georgetown, S.C., Bill was the oldest of nine children. At the age of 10, he knew he wanted to be a doctor and serve others, but paying for college and medical school was a difficult proposition.
As a high school student, young Billy Rowe got to know Gov. James F. Byrnes, who had served as Secretary of State under President Truman and as a Supreme Court Justice. Gov. Byrnes and his wife— Mom and Pop—were unable to have children, so they started a scholarship foundation for aspiring young people who had lost a parent. Bill was not eligible for a scholarship because his parents were living, but Gov. Byrnes liked Bill, so he reached out to his good friend, Bernard Baruch. Mr. Baruch was a wealthy financier who had served as an advisor to six U.S. Presidents and grew up near Georgetown. After meeting Bill, Mr. Baruch gave a modest amount to Gov. Byrnes to help pay for Bill’s college and medical school through the foundation. Bill became a member ofthe first class of Byrnes Scholars in 1949, and he was the oldest Byrnes Scholar at the time of his death.
Bill attended the University of South Carolina, was in the Navy ROTC and served as a senate page in the SC State House. After graduating, he served as a communications officer aboard the USS Lake Champlain during the Korean War. He continued to serve in the Naval Reserve and Marine Corps Reserve for many years. The Navy was dear to him, and he was always seen with a Navy pin on his sport coat.
During his time in the Navy, he met a beautiful young lady in Norfolk, Va., named Virginia Dare Massey. After a six-month courtship, the two married in Charlottesville on Sept. 18, 1954, and have been happily married for more than 66 years. Bill loved Virginia just as much today as the day he met her. He couldn’t have been the man he was without her love and support.
Once the Korean War ended in 1955, Bill attended the Medical College of South Carolina in Charleston and earned his Doctor of Medicine in 1959. At that time, he moved to Chattanooga for his internship and surgical residency at Erlanger Hospital. In 1963, he went to the Lahey Clinic in Boston for his fellowship.
In 1964, Bill returned to Chattanooga with his wife and children and entered private practice. During the 1990s, he joined University Surgical Associates (USA) and worked with them until 2005, when he retired from surgery at the age of 74. But his passion for medicine and serving others remained until his death. For several years, he was a Clinical Instructor at USA’s Clinic for the Uninsured. Dr. Steve Dreskin kindly offered him a position with Tennessee Valley Pain Management in 2008, and he worked with them until his death. He was very fond of Dr. Dreskin and his staff for giving him the opportunity to continue working in the profession he loved.
Bill served on numerous medical boards and charitable organizations during his lifetime. Most dear to him was the Byrnes Foundation where he served on the board since 1989 as Treasurer and President. He wanted to give to many others the educational opportunity that Bernard Baruch and Mom and Pop Byrnes had given to him.
As video narrator Dal Poston, Foundation board chair, proclaims on behalf of the Foundation and Scholars: “Bill, we want to thank you for your years of leadership of the Foundation, your caring for all Scholars, your devotion to the memory of the Byrnes, and your tireless efforts to secure this Foundation for the future.”
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In return for their generosity and support, Mom and Pop Byrnes asked only two things from us: become the very best people we could become in life, and make sure their legacy of family continues for those who come after us.
Please consider making a tax deductible contribution to the James F. Byrnes Foundation to secure its ability to invite more deserving young women and men to join the Byrnes family, both now and in the future. The Donate button will take you to the Paypal site where you can use your credit card or Paypal account to make a secure, one-time donation or set up a monthly recurring donation.
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