Reese, Milous J., Jr.
Milous J. Reese, Jr.
Chiropractor, acupuncturist, herbologist
Throughout his life Dr. Milous J. Reese, Jr., has been a soft-spoken, mild-mannered man, but a tenacious fighter for better healthcare practices and supporting legislation in Alabama. Before his phased retirement began in the 1980s he did not hesitate to lend his money, energy, and time to the people and organizations around the state that looked to him for support. Patients, civic groups, colleges, and medical groups all have been the recipients of Reese's good will. For his generous deeds he has earned many awards of recognition and deep respect from the city of Birmingham and the Alabama state legislature. To honor him the Alabama State Chiropractors Association presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award on July 2, 1993. To further underscore his accomplishments on that day the State of Alabama designated July 2 as Dr. Milous J. Reese, Jr., Day.
In 1950 Reese founded the Alabama College of Drugless Therapy and was the first black chiropractor to meet the standard requirements to run a nursing home, opening a facility in Smithfield, Georgia, in June of 1952. He was the first black to become a member of the Alabama State Chiropractic Association and received a Certificate of Recognition for Outstanding Service from the Jefferson County Chiropractic Society in 1975. He was the first African American to serve on the United States Board of Acupuncture, and received a commendation form the Alabama legislature for public service work in 1983. Dr. Reese fought laws that forbade combining office and residential space in a common dwelling and supported passage of workers' compensation laws in the state. He also supported legislation that would allow chiropractic services to be covered by Medicare and Blue Cross Blue Shield in the state of Alabama.
Milous Reese, Jr., was born on a farm in Harris, Georgia, on October 17, 1904, to Milous Reese , Sr., and Ella Reese, the sixth of fourteen children. His father moved the family to Birmingham after selling the farm when Reese , Jr., was a teenager. But Birmingham held no interest for the young man at that time. He wanted to see the world while he was still young, so he took a job at the Pennsylvania Railroad as a porter on a sleeping car that ran between New York and Toronto. A chance meeting with Nelson Rockefeller on board the train became a life-changing event for Reese.
When asked where the train was going, Reese told Rockefeller its destination. Later Rockefeller asked Reese how may pennies he had in his pocket. Reese responded that he only had a few. Rockefeller then pulled out his billfold and gave Reese a dollar for every penny Reese showed him. "This is to teach you the value of your pennies," Rockefeller told Reese, according to the Birmingham News. Then as the wealthy man turned away he said, "But you know, I'd give all my money up to get rid of my stomach problem." With that Reese decided to study medicine.
Dr. Reese studied as he traveled, completing high school in Las Vegas in 1926. He received chiropractic degrees from the Standard Institute of Therapeutics in Chicago in 1930 and the Indiana School of Chiropractic in Anderson, Indiana in 1933. Reese opened his practice soon after that and continued to learn in the field of chiropractic medicine and several other specialties for over 60 years. He earned a master's degree in philosophy from the Indiana American Institute of Science in Indianapolis and received a doctorate in psychology from Ohio Christian College. In 1956 his application was rejected when he applied for additional studies at the Texas Chiropractic College. At the time Texas law did not allow the enrollment of African Americans at the schoo1. But Reese never lost sight of his goals: when the law changed, he applied again and was accepted to do post-graduate work there in applied kinesiology. He also studied internal medicine, acupuncture, herbology, and diagnostic roentgenology.
Prior to the 1950s many African Americans pursuing medicine did not consider becoming chiropractors due to the many obstacles to entering chiropractic schools. Because of the "Negroes not accepted" policy of white schools, those blacks that did had to study in northern white-run schools or schools that provided instructions to blacks only. Correspondence schools were an option also since one could hide his race more easily.
As late as 1979 the National Association of Black Chiropractors found the need to file discrimination complaints against the Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE), the professions accrediting group, along with its member colleges. The resulting action was a Recommendation by the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education to change or eliminate some admissions forms and statements that caused discrimination towards blacks. Since that time things have changed considerably for blacks in the field. Blacks are now graduating in greater numbers and working as administrators and faculty at many schools in the nation.
Dr. Reese worked side by side with colleagues and lawmakers to fight for the changes that came about. In a letter to the African-American Health Week Special Edition Alabama State Congressman Earl F. Hilliard stated, "Dr. Reese epitomizes that which is so needed in all our communities—a caring healthcare professional who is always accessible when there is a need. I can remember when Dr. Reese, as a young chiropractor, was the only primary care health professional willing to locate in his community—we could count on him in times of need."
At a Glance...
Born Milous J. Reese, Jr., on October 17, 1904, in Harris, GA. Education: Standard Institute of Therapeutics, Chicago, IL, DC, chiropractic therapeutics, 1930; Indiana School of Chiropractic, Anderson, IN, DC, 1933; McCormick Medical College, MD, 1935; Indiana American Institute of Science, MS, philosophy, 1946; Ohio Christian College, PhD, psychology, (?); Villamoe University, BS, 1949; Mid-Western University, BA, 1953. Texas Chiropractic College, postgraduate studies, applied kinesiology and diagnostic roentgenology, 1972-76; Bissland Acupuncture Seminars, certified instruction, 1974; Emerson College of Herbology, MA, herbology, 1978. Religion: Methodist.
Career: Birmingham, Alabama, Chiropractor and Certified Acupuncturist, 1933–; Alabama College of Drugless Therapy, founder, 1950; Nursing home, Smithfield, Georgia, founder, 1952.
Selected memberships : Alabama State Chiropractic Association; Jefferson County Chiropractic Society; Acupuncture Society; Center for Chinese Medicine; U.S. Academy of Acupuncture.
Selected awards: Jefferson County Chiropractic Society Certificate of Recognition for Outstanding Service, 1975; Alabama Legislature Commendation for Public Service, 1983; Miles College Doctor of Humane Letters Award, 1989; Alabama Chiropractic Association, Lifetime Achievement Award, 1993; State of Alabama designation of Milous J. Reese, Jr., Day, July 2, 1993.
Addresses: Office— Dr. Milous Reese, Jr., 2117 18th Street, Ensley, Birmingham, AL, 35218.
In the 1930s when Dr. Reese began his practice he would charge each patient only one dollar. Some days he saw up to 300 patients. Christopher Elliott quoted Dr. Reese in the Birmingham News as saying, "They kept filing in and out every day until I became known. Then I started to ask for more money." Besides his dedication to his work they were fascinated by his collection of antique diagnostic equipment.
His early years in practice were tough but the times and people were all changing. In 1943 the Alabama Chiropractic Association started accepting blacks. Their Man of the Year award to Reese is the one he is most proud of. As he wiped a tear from his eye, Reese told Elliott, "If it weren't for some good white people and some good black people in the world we wouldn't get this far. Man is not judged by his color or his size, but his heart."
Birmingham News, July 17, 1989, p. 2D.
African-American Health Week Special Edition, March 31, 1994, p. 9.
"Challenges and Progress of Black Chiropractors," Chiropractic Economics, www.chiroeco.com/article/2004/issue10/10events6.html (December 28, 2004).
"Dr. Milous Reese: First Black Honored as Alabama's Chiropractor of the Year," Chiropractic Economics, www.chiroeco.com/article/2004/issue10/10people8.html (December 28, 2004).
Additional information obtained through an interview with Dr. P. Reginald Hug on January 9, 2005, and through materials supplied by the Alabama State Chiropractic Association.
—Sharon Melson Fletcher
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