‘Gentleman and scholar’ Gandy dies

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 31, 2004

NATCHEZ &045;&045; Dr. Thomas H. Gandy, a physician, historian and preservationist, died Monday morning at the age of 82, after a long illness.

Known for his 40 years of caring for Natchez patients, Gandy will also be remembered for his preservation work, including the extensive restoration of a collection of photographic negatives covering 100 years of Natchez history.

&uot;He was a landmark,&uot; said Mimi Miller, director of preservation for the Historic Natchez Foundation. &uot;We have all sorts of landmarks … but if we could designate people as national historic landmarks, he would be one.&uot;

Email newsletter signup

Miller and her husband, Ron, director of the foundation, came to Natchez as a result of a project Gandy fostered during his tenure as president of the Natchez Historical Society.

Gandy formed the committee to determine what could be done to save Natchez’s historical buildings; the foundation was a creation of that committee.

&uot;He was a gentleman and a scholar,&uot; Mimi Miller said of Gandy. &uot;He was witty, straightforward, candid &045;&045; an intellectual and a great storyteller.&uot;

Before he turned a hobby into a second life’s work, though, Gandy practiced medicine in his adopted hometown.

A native of Tallulah, La., Gandy graduated from Tallulah High School and from Louisiana State University, later earning his medical degree from LSU School of Medicine.

In 1946, after an internship and residency at Shreveport Charity Hospital, Gandy was called to active duty in the U.S. Navy and served first at the New Orleans Naval Hospital for several months before assignment to the First Marine Division China, where he served until 1948.

After his return to the United States, he returned to Shreveport to complete his three-year residency in internal medicine and pathology.

In 1950, Gandy moved to Natchez and joined a small clinic, practicing there for 10 years before opening his solo practice. A board-certified internist, he was a leader in the medical community, serving a term as chief of staff at the public hospital.

He was appointed to the hospital’s board of trustees and two years later became the first doctor to serve as chairman of the board.

Former patients recalled Gandy as more than a physician; during visits he often talked about what was happening in their lives, and he encouraged their endeavors.

&uot;He was an influence in terms of just watching how he did things,&uot; said Justice Court Judge Mary Lee Toles, a former patient and friend of the physician.

Toles was one of the founders of the Natchez Association for the Preservation of African-American Culture’s museum.

&uot;One of the motivating factors in starting the NAPAC museum was Dr. Gandy’s work,&uot; Toles said. &uot;He’d always talk about the need to do something in the black community. There were a lot of factors, but I never forgot his encouragement.&uot;

Former Natchez Mayor Larry L. &uot;Butch&uot; Brown, now director of the Mississippi Department of Transportation, said he relied on Gandy for his wisdom not only as a doctor but also as a friend. &uot;He became a great mentor on life in Natchez,&uot; Brown said. &uot;He gave me great, sage advice.&uot;

Longtime friend and patient Amon Jordan said Gandy had &uot;endless time&uot; for his patients.

&uot;He was selfless, caring and faithful, a beloved doctor and friend,&uot; she said. &uot;It is such a loss not only to our family but to the community.&uot;

Along with his medical practice, Gandy devoted much of his life in Natchez to preserving the city’s history.

In 1970, Gandy was named chairman of the city’s new Architectural Review Board, which led the way for today’s Natchez Preservation Commission and the important preservation laws helping to save the city’s architectural treasures.

Dr. Carl Passman, a fellow physician, said Gandy was &uot;the only doctor I know who was able to retire and start to work.&uot;

Indeed, Gandy spent much of his free time restoring the Norman collection of photographs &045;&045; a series of negatives by father and son photographers. After acquiring the negatives, Gandy learned the art and science of photography to preserve the images

Gandy and his wife, Joan, who is community editor of The Democrat, produced several books based on the images.

That work, said former Natchez Mayor Tony Byrne, made Gandy a &uot;great ambassador for Natchez.&uot;

&uot;Natchez owes him a lot for what he and Joan have done,&uot; Byrne said.

Mimi Miller noted

Joan Gandy

has been a partner in everything Dr. Gandy has done since they were married.

&uot;It was a great partnership,&uot; Miller said.

&uot;We’re thankful we still have half of that partnership.&uot;

Exhibits of the photos have traveled to London, Toronto, Sidney, Australia, and across the United States.

Gandy’s preservation work led him to many lectures for civic groups and conferences, as well as for Elderhostel and for the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration. Elderhostel and NLCC founder Carolyn Vance Smith said Dr. Gandy was the first person she thought of to lecture at Elderhostel.

&uot;He could hold audiences’ attention with his wit and intelligence and humor,&uot; she said, noting comment cards on the programs often came back with the question &uot;Why didn’t you just have Dr. Gandy lecture the whole week?&uot;

Gandy served as an Elderhostel lecturer late in 2002, when he suffered a massive stroke.

&uot;For more than a year he struggled to recover from a stroke,&uot; his wife Joan said. &uot;He died with the same dignity, courage and strong spirit with which he lived his whole life.&uot;

Graveside services will be at 3 p.m. Thursday, with visitation following at First Presbyterian Church’s Stratton Chapel, where many of the photographs Gandy restored are on display in a permanent exhibit.

In addition to his wife Joan, he is survived by six children, Susan Olds, Warren Gandy, Tom Gandy and William Gandy, all of Baton Rouge, Melissa Good of Cambridge, England, and Nancy Rosebrock of Asheville, N.C.; a sister, Eleanor Terzia of Monroe, La.; and 10 grandchildren.