As a physician, trained at Meharry Medical College and Homer G. Phillips Hospital in St. Louis, Dr. Herschell Lee Hamilton was the first board certified, African-American general surgeon to practice at UAB and in Alabama.
Arriving in Birmingham in 1959, Dr. Herschell L. Hamilton set up his medical practice at the Ballard House. He devoted himself to his patients and to the cause of equal rights. Dr. Hamilton was beloved for his acts of humanitarianism, treating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, and numerous foot soldiers injured during the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement marches and demonstrations.
Because of his skill and dedication to the fight for Civil Rights, Dr. Hamilton quickly became known throughout Birmingham and Alabama as “Battle Surgeon” and “The Dog Bite Doctor.” He also supported the Movement generously with his personal resources.
The Ballard House continued its legacy, rapidly becoming a designated meeting space to discuss strategy for those involved in the Civil Rights struggle in Birmingham.
The Hamilton family later purchased the Ballard House from Mrs. Perkins.
As a practicing general surgeon for more than 40 years, Dr. Hamilton continued his commitment to his community by treating patients and mentoring young African-American physicians in a successful medical practice at The Ballard House.