north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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      Thomas Fanning Wood, born in Wilmington, attended public schools in that city and upon completion went to work in a drugstore. He studied medicine with several local physicians, a common way of gaining a medical education at the time. Wood’s volunteer service for the Confederate army gave him the opportunity to attend classes at the Medical College of Virginia while serving as a hospital steward in Richmond. While in service he passed a medical exam and in 1863 was appointed an assistant surgeon.

     After the war Wood returned to Wilmington where he established a private practice. There was a devastating smallpox epidemic in Wilmington from 1865 to 1866, during which time Wood ran a hospital for indigent blacks stricken with the disease. His experiences there led him to promote Edward Jenner’s smallpox inoculation in North Carolina. Wood recognized the need for state involvement in public health issues and would be engaged in that form of politics for the rest of his life.

     The General Assembly passed a bill establishing the North Carolina Board of Health in 1877 and increased its authority and funding in 1879 and again in 1885. Wood was elected secretary-treasurer of the initial board in 1877 and held that position until his death in 1892. The successful launching of the board was due in large part to the efforts of Wood, who wrote as many as 200 letters per month on behalf of the organization. In 1878 he co-founded the North Carolina Medical Journal, the publication of the North Carolina Medical Society. He was the principal editor of the journal for the remainder of his life. He was active as a public health administrator in many organizations and his contributions to medical literature are significant.

     Thomas Fanning Wood was married to the former Mary Kennedy Sprunt. They had five children, their eldest named after Edward Jenner. Wood was awarded an honorary M.D. degree from the University of Maryland in 1868 and an honorary LL.D. from the University of North Carolina in 1890. He died August 22, 1892, and is buried in Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington.


References:
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, VI, 261-262—sketch by Nathaniel F. Magruder
Jane Zimmerman, “The Formative Years of the North Carolina Board of Health, 1877-1893,” North Carolina Historical Review (January 1944): 1-34
Dorothy Long, ed., Medicine in North Carolina (1972)
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