What Killed Miami’s First Doctor?

At first he thought it was the ice collars.

When Dr. James Jackson developed breathing trouble in 1923, he didn’t think much about it. He had long been in the practice of wearing an ice collar in the operating room to stay cool in the Miami heat. He brushed his symptoms off as pneumonia.

Dr. James Jackson

Dr. Jackson had been practicing in Miami since 1896, when the fledgling settlement was only a few streets wide. Luckily for Miami, he stayed on — becoming the town’s first physician and jack-of-all medical specialties. He delivered babies; set broken bones; treated ulcers, boils and heart troubles. It was Jackson who ran the “sanitary watch” over Miami in 1899 when the town was quarantined for yellow fever, conducting house-to-house inspections for the disease. He also became the official physician for the luxurious Royal Palm Hotel, treating its guests when needed.

The lavish Royal Palm Hotel, circa 1901.
Hippodrome on right; Halcyon Hotel on the left.

By 1923, Dr. Jackson was still seeing patients at his office on Twelfth Street, although now in the newly-built Hippodrome building. He also was actively engaged in helping plan for a new City Hospital. But Jackson wouldn’t live long enough to see the new facility open.

That winter he began losing weight. A trip to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore diagnosed him with a fungal infection of the lung, and he was treated with intravenous infusions of mercurochrome. This heavy-duty “cure,” Jackson found, left him feeling worse than the disease, and he soon discontinued treatment.

On April 2, 1924, he died at home in Miami. In a gesture of universal mourning, the city’s mayor ordered all Miami businesses closed two days later, so that citizens could attend Dr. Jackson’s funeral. None other than William Jennings Bryan delivered his eulogy.

Less than a week after Jackson died, the city commissioners voted to rename the future hospital the “James M. Jackson Memorial Hospital.” The resolution passed unanimously.

Book from Clairitage Press about Dr. Jackson, Miami’s first physician.

Like to read more about Dr. Jackson and Miami’s early days? Check out the new book about him here!







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