ABERDEEN – In October 2018, the Aberdeen Housing Authority’s six-year attempt of acquiring tax credits through the Mississippi Home Corporation finally materialized into a win.
What followed was the demolition of 24 housing units built in 1957, giving way to 48 brand new apartments alongside Canal Street. The Woodruff Manor apartment community bears the namesake of a former African-American doctor who established a legacy during his living years, and family members and locals paid tribute to him during a Nov. 10 dedication ceremony.
Dr. Robert E. Woodruff, who lived from 1896 to 1979, was invited by Meharry Medical College in Alabama to open a practice in Aberdeen, which lasted for 53 years.
“The older you get, the more you appreciate people that paved the way, and Dr. Woodruff was one of them,” said Aberdeen Housing Authority Board of Directors President Ann Tackett, who reflected on the friendship her grandfather and Woodruff had through their lives. “I said we needed to name this [apartment community] after someone who is really important to us. We always wanted this to be in his memory, and we’ll have to educate others of who Dr. Woodruff was. That’s our legacy and that’s what we need to do.”
Pastor J.O. Barrentine reflected about how everyone went to see him for medical needs years before specialists came into practice, which included delivering babies.
Margie McPherson, who was among the first 12 African-American students to integrate to Aberdeen High School, recalled the Woodruff family being a support system for her.
“When I graduated from Aberdeen High School, they didn’t give us scholarships and we were honor students too. I went to Tougaloo College. Robert heard I did not receive a scholarship, but I was an honor student and he gave me a scholarship. With that help, I was able to graduate cum laude and then was able to go on to Atlanta University for my master’s degree. You see, there are great people who he stood on their shoulders,” she said.
Ward 3 Alderman Edward Haynes recalled being from the projects and gave credit to the Woodruff family for being frontrunners to inspire others from the neighborhood.
“We have pride and joy from where we came from,” he said. “We have educators, we have ministers, we have deacons who came out of those same projects. It was all based on somebody being a frontrunner for us, and that’s what the Woodruffs did. They set an example for us to follow. We’ve got to be examples for those behind us because we have the same pride that he had. We’re passing that pride down the line to the next doctors, the next lawyers, the next congressmen and senators, and we just don’t know it,” Haynes said.
He added Woodruff’s former home will be part of the forthcoming Aberdeen Black History Trail, which is currently in the planning stages.