Rev. Dr. Ruth Wallace Black

Dr Ruth Wallace Black, 79, died Friday August, 23, 2019 at Hospice Ministries. A third generation Jacksonian, Dr. Black earned her baccalaureate degree at Belhaven University and language certificates at both the British Institute in London and the Alliance Française in Paris. She received her doctorate in psycholinguistics from Harvard University, and took her residency in clinical pastoral education at UMMC. She grew up at First Baptist Church, where her grandmother was the organist, and she joined the Episcopal church (and St. Andrew’s Cathedral) in her college years. She met her husband there when he joined the Cathedral choir, and one of their first “dates” was a trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to assist other churches with cleanup in the aftermath of Hurricane Camille.

"Tootsie, as we called her," was in the second graduating class at Murrah High School," said Dick Wilson of Jackson, one of her classmates. “ While at Murrah, she was active in the Theatre Guild. She played Ado Annie in Murrah’s spectacular 1956 production of Oklahoma! And in her senior year, she was the mother in Cheaper by the Dozen. And, oh yes, in that senior year, she was also editor of the Résumé, Murrah’s annual, as well as being an active member of the Murrah Singers. She was a Class favorite and, while doing all that, made top grades — a foretaste of what was to come in later years. Since graduating, she and another classmate have done the program every 10 years for our high school class reunions. The 60th was just two years ago. "

Dr. Black retired in 2014 as the director of pastoral services at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) after 30 years of service, culminating a multi-faceted career that included teaching at numerous colleges and schools.

“Ruth contributed immensely to Medical Center life and patient care,” said Barbara Austin, director emerita of public affairs for the health science campus. “ Our University Hospital would not have its art-filled, multi-faith chapel if it were not for her initiative and determination that UMMC needed a true chapel for our patients, students and faculty.“

Additionally, Austin recalled, Dr. Black performed all the usual functions of a chaplain at UMMC: she worked, of course, with patients and frequently counseled them at life’s worst moments; she gave all the invocations one expected for an academic health center’s many official programs as well as the numerous groundbreakings and openings for a rapidly growing medical facility with multiple satellite locations; she worked with caregivers when they had to give difficult news; she even performed numerous weddings and was called upon to censor the vice chancellor’s (the CEO’s) jokes before a faculty meeting.

“Ruth was comfortable no matter what the religious persuasion in helping our patients at the Medical Center. We were so lucky to have her at the helm of our pastoral services department for so many years, " said Dr. James Keeton, vice chancellor emeritus at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

While at UMMC, Dr. Black also served as an instructor in psychiatry and human behavior, an assistant professor of medicine as well as Pediatrics Hematology/Oncology and Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities faculty. She also held appointments as a faculty member at Millsaps College and Mississippi State University; as a visiting scholar at Virginia Theological Seminary at Alexandria, VA.; as a deacon, curate and priest at St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Jackson; and finally as priest associate at her original parish (St. Andrews Episcopal Cathedral) in Jackson.

Additionally, community service always has been a major part of her life. She was a founding board member of the Whispering Pines Hospice (now Hospice Ministries), on the board of Grace House, and on the advisory board for the Central Hospice of Mississippi. Having witnessed first-hand the devastation of the AIDS epidemic and the difficulties for traditional healthcare systems to provide optimum care to these extremely ill patients, she helped launch and graciously served on the National Episcopal AIDS Commission and the Mississippi Episcopal AIDS Committee. She was a member of the Belhaven House & Garden Club, the Research Club, Tres Gai, and the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross.

She is survived by her husband, D. Carl Black, Jr., her son Carl Black III, both of Jackson, her stepdaughter Betty Smithson (Lee) of Madison, grandchildren Ann and Jack Smithson, and cousins Dee Dee Allen and Lana Whatley.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in Dr. Black's name to St. Andrew's Episcopal Cathedral and UMMC (Medical Center Chapel Fund). Visitation begins at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, August 29, 2019 at St. Andrew's Episcopal Cathedral, with a memorial service (Requiem Eucharist) immediately following at 11:00 a.m.

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