Known Burials in the Sammons Cemetery: George Rutherford Ferguson

Dr. George R. Ferguson (1877-1932) (Figure 1), the son of William B. and Cornelia Ferguson, was the first African-American physician with a sustained practice in Albemarle County. Raised in Ohio and Kentucky, he attended Fisk University, graduated from the Howard University Medical Department, and, in 1903, passed the Virginia state examining board. He settled in Charlottesville, where he practiced medicine for almost twenty years. In 1904 he married Luella Brown; they had two children, Louise Ferguson and George R. Ferguson, Jr. After his wife’s death, Dr. Ferguson moved with his children to Cleveland, Ohio. Father and son, who were both active in the NAACP, returned to Charlottesville in 1927. Two years later Dr. Ferguson married Eva Sammons, daughter of Jesse and Lula Sammons.

An obituary in the Journal of the National Medical Association (Feb. 1933) states: "Dr. Ferguson was among his clientele, the beloved physician. He was gentle, modest, friendly to all, and easily approached by the most lowly. When he decided to go to Cleveland there was general grief upon his leaving, and joy when he returned to his old field of practice. Few physicians of our acquaintance are more generally loved and respected by the community than was he."

Dr. Ferguson's first wife, Luella, was the daughter of Mary Louisa and John Mifflin Brown, an eminent AME bishop. The Fergusons’ daughter, Louise Ferguson, had a career as a librarian in Cleveland. Their son, George R. Ferguson, Jr., operated a funeral home in Charlottesville, was president of the local chapter of the NAACP, and led efforts to desegregate the University of Virginia hospital as well as local schools. His daughter, Olivia, was one of the Charlottesville Twelve, a group of elementary and high school students who integrated the city schools in 1959. In 2004 she was awarded an honorary diploma by the Charlottesville public schools and a key to the city by the Charlottesville City Council. In 2012 the honorary naming of a Charlottesville street perpetuated George Ferguson, Jr.’s memory.

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Figure 1: George Ferguson and his children, 1917.
The University of Virginia Library, Holsinger Collection.
Click here for the entire image.