Dr. Michael Hoke (1874-1944), among the earliest orthopedic surgeons in the South and a leader in charitable institutions for crippled children, was born in Lincolnton. His father, Robert F. Hoke (1837-1912), was the famed Confederate general. His grandfather Michael Hoke (1810-1844), for whom he was named, was the Democratic candidate for governor in 1844. While the latter-day Michael Hoke was still a young boy, the former general and his family moved to Raleigh. In 1893 Michael Hoke graduated from the University of North Carolina, where he was captain of the football team. Two years later he completed his M.D. degree at the University of Virginia and then interned at the Johns Hopkins University.
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In 1897 Dr. Hoke began a general surgery practice in Atlanta. In 1900 he spent a year in Boston training under the nation’s first orthopedic surgeon. Back in Georgia, Hoke developed a keen interest in crippled children, often caring for those unable to pay. He devised a procedure performed on the feet of polio victims which became known as the “Hoke operation.” In 1917, with Hoke’s backing and that of philanthropist Forrest Adair, a crippled children’s hospital opened in Decatur. That institution was backed by Masons but led the Shriners to found a nationwide chain of such hospitals beginning in 1919. Back in North Carolina, at Gastonia, he was the first principal surgeon at the North Carolina Orthopedic Hospital, opened in 1921.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, himself a polio victim, took a special interest in Hoke’s work. In 1931 Roosevelt persuaded him to leave his Atlanta practice and take a post as surgeon-in-chief at Warm Springs. Hoke and his wife occupied the “Little White House,” vacating it when Roosevelt was in residence. Hoke was not the President’s personal physician but had his respect and trust. Of Hoke FDR said “He is a man who is dear to my heart.” Declining in health forced Hoke to retire to Beaufort, South Carolina, in 1937. He died on September 27, 1944, and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh.
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, III, 165-166 – sketch by Alexander Webb Jr.
Theo Lippman, The Squire of Warm Springs: Franklin Delanor Roosevelt in Georgia, 1924-1945 (1977)
Greensboro Daily News, January 2, 1934
Atlanta Constitution, October 18, 1946
Atlanta Journal, September 1, 1931, and September 28, 1944
William L. Sherrill, The Annals of Lincoln County (1937)