Dr. Richard Fowler Tyson

[ Age 79 ] Family practitioner sued UM in 1949 over segregation.

December 07, 2007|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN REPORTER

Dr. Richard Fowler Tyson, a retired family practitioner who was a plaintiff in a lawsuit that helped open the University of Maryland to African-American students, died of stroke complications Sunday at his Columbia home. He was 79.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Etting Street, he was a 1947 graduate of Frederick Douglass High School. Family members said he had hoped to become a pharmacist and applied to the University of Maryland. At the time, Maryland sent black students out of state for graduate training. The state authorized a scholarship to send him to Xavier University in New Orleans.

In a 1949 suit, he complained that he had been denied admission to the University of Maryland school of pharmacy because of his color and sought legal action "to compel the university to act on his application for admission," according to a Sun account.

"I think this is a dirty deal. The people of Maryland should do something about it. It is very undemocratic," he told the Baltimore Afro American in August 1949.

His suit failed, but in 1951 the University of Maryland regents changed their segregation policy.

Dr. Tyson earned an undergraduate degree at Morgan State University and completed graduate studies in science and education at Columbia University. He taught science in the Baltimore schools in the 1950s, then served in the Army, achieving the rank of captain.

"His compassion to be of service to others led him to Howard University Medical School," said his wife of 42 years, the former Joanne Harris, a nurse with whom he worked. "He always had time for his patients. He was never too busy for you."

Dr. Tyson earned his medical degree from Howard in 1963. He served on the staff of Memorial Hospital in Easton. Trained as a pediatrician, he later went into family practice. He was on the staff of Maryland General Hospital and the old Provident Hospital.

He moved to Columbia in the 1960s and, according to a 1969 Evening Sun article, was one of the first two physicians to establish a medical practice in the new city. He and his wife also ran the Institute for Marriage Enrichment and Sexual Study in Columbia "to help sexually troubled couples achieve a normal marriage relationship," a 1974 Sun article said.

He was one of the founding partners of Madison Park Professional Center in Reservoir Hill. In a dispute with medical insurers, Dr. Tyson lost his medical license for six months in 1979. After that, he immediately resumed his practice and worked until he suffered a stroke in 2003.

He was a charter fellow of the American Board of Family Practice and a member of the Maryland State Medical Society and the National Medical Association.

He also was an adviser to the Johns Hopkins University and to University of Maryland medical students. He was a mentor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County Meyerhoff Scholars' Program.

Dr. Tyson was a member of St. John Baptist Church, where a memorial fund has been established in his name.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Celebration Church, 6080 Foreland Garth in Columbia.

In addition to his wife, survivors include a son, Todd Tyson of Nevada; a brother, Joseph R. Tyson of the Philippines; and a sister, Almerrita Gray of Ijamsville. A son, William Richard Tyson, died in 1990.


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