By Nancy C. Williams
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series of articles in honor of Doctors’ Day, Tuesday, March 30. The series looks at the medical family and how physicians serve as leaders in healthcare, their homes, and our community.
Our region is blessed to have so many top-notch physicians here—many of these doctors could have located in large metropolitan practices, but they have chosen to live in our smaller community.
For Johnson City’s Huddleston family, those decisions to live and work here have taken root as their children—and grandchildren—have joined them in medical care.
Dr. Sam W. Huddleston III, was born and raised in Asheville, N.C., and served during World War II in the U.S. Navy in the submarine service. After graduating from Vanderbilt University Medical School, he completed his orthopedic surgery training and served as chief resident in orthopedic surgery at Vanderbilt.
In 1956, he moved to Johnson City with his family and wife, June, to practice orthopedics. He retired from Appalachian Orthopedic Associates after practicing for 49 years and passed away in 2006.
“When we were invited up here to see the area, Sam just loved it,” June said. “He enjoyed all kinds of outdoor sports, snow skiing, white water rafting, windsurfing, kayaking, sailing and diving. He was an instrument-rated commercial pilot, also.”
All of his life Sam loved and studied the sciences…his quest for knowledge was an inspiration to all of his family. But he never pushed any of his children to go into medicine.
June said that Sam took his family with him wherever he went, involving them in his sporting activities. “He was just a really good father,” she said. “He supported them in whatever they wanted to do. They admired him enough to want to follow in his medical footsteps as well.”
June’s main focus has been the Johnson City Symphony Orchestra, serving on the board of directors since 1971 and serving as chairman for three terms.
Sam and June had three children—daughter Donnan C. Huddleston, an interior designer; Dr. Sam W. Huddleston IV and his wife Peggy of Johnson City; and Dr. Thomas (Tom) L. Huddleston and his wife Cecile of Johnson City—and six grandchildren.
Sam IV and his wife, Peggy, grew up in Johnson City together. “We were childhood sweethearts,” Peggy said. “Sam and I married when he started medical school, and we’ve been married for 42 years.”
Sam IV developed the desire to be a physician when he was in high school. “He grew up going to work with his father,” Peggy said. “He was able to scrub in and assist surgeries and follow his father in the office as a student…his father was a great example for him.”
Taking a different track in surgery, Sam IV chose to go into plastic and reconstructive surgery in solo practice. “Sam has devoted his life to helping others who are faced with great health challenges,” Peggy said. “He operates frequently on patients with cancer and those who need reconstructive surgery. After 28 years, Sam still loves being a surgeon and helping his patients.”
Sam IV is also a jazz musician and enthusiast, who played tenor saxophone (with his brother Tom, who played alto saxophone) with the local Spirit of Soul Dance Band for 10 years. He plays with the worship team of Christ Fellowship Church, with the jazz group After Dark, and with other jazz instrumentalists.
Peggy and Sam IV have three sons—Dr. Sam W. Huddleston V and his wife, Ekin, of Johnson City; Haynes Huddleston and Delani Edison of Chattanooga; and Alex and his wife, Brooke, of Knoxville—and two granddaughters.
“Our son, Sam V, is a radiologist with Blue Ridge Radiology, and our other two sons, Haynes and Alex, are medical device sales consultants,” Peggy said. “While the men in our family have many interests, medicine is usually a topic of conversation when we are all together.”
For 18 years, Peggy has volunteered and served as a board/management team member and past director and co-director of Area 3 Special Olympics. “That has been and is a great passion of mine,” she said. “It warms my heart to see the absolute joy and happiness as our athletes participate and compete.”
Tom “followed in his dad’s footsteps” as an orthopedic surgeon, but it was a deliberate decision he made after evaluating all of the options available to him.
“Tom had a lot of respect for his dad…he saw how his dad was able to help people, and that inspired Tom,” said his wife, Cecile.
Cecile, who is from New Orleans, and Tom met during his medical school years; the couple have been married now for 38 years. Cecile said Tom chose orthopedics because he enjoyed problem-solving and the variety of cases. “Like his dad, he wanted to make a difference in the quality of life for someone,” she said. “He cherished the 15 years he had as one of his dad’s partners.
“Tom’s faith and family are his highest priorities,” she added. “His humble and sacrificial nature and thoughtfulness are the things I most admire. His work hours have always been long, but even after a very long day at work, he has always made time for his family.”
Their daughter, Lauren, is a corporate attorney in Nashville. Their two sons, Thomas and Stewart, have special needs, creating a busy household.
“Tom always wanted to help and still helps today with our sons,” Cecile said. “Like his dad, Tom loves the outdoors in many ways—mountain biking, windsurfing, fly fishing, hunting, skiing, snowboarding, hiking, and traveling when we can.
“He has sacrificed a lot of those activities over the past 31 years that would take him away from the needs of our family. Instead, we’ve modified our outdoor sports in ways that can include Thomas and Stewart.”
Tom wholeheartedly supports Cecile’s work with Brother’s Keeper, a lifelong educational and enrichment program designed to educate adults with intellectual disabilities, to empower them to engage with the community (https://brotherskeepertn.com). Cecile is the organization’s founder and executive director.
Tom talked about missions in our earlier years of marriage but soon concluded that he was on the mission field God intended for him—here at home and with his patients,” she said. “He never even questioned my idea of starting Brother’s Keeper (BK) from the moment I mentioned it. We had visited a similar program together, and he knew what my vision for BK would be. He is supportive of the hours I keep when busy with BK and in whatever way is needed.
“Tom’s same character carries over to his job…it gives him satisfaction to serve others and his community in this way. His family’s medical heritage is a blessing, but in everyday life, being a physician just happens to be what he enjoys and does for a living.”
Peggy and Sam IV’s son, Sam V, met his bride, Ekin, in Memphis. Ekin is of Turkish descent, and her whole family is still in Istanbul.
“I met Sam while he was in his second year of med school and I had just graduated from college and started working,” Ekin said. “We got married right after he finished his internship year in 2012. We now have two beautiful girls, three-year-old Olivia and two-month-old Leyla.
“Sam always wanted to be a physician just like his father and grandfather, always looked up to them. The Lord led him to choose and follow the path toward radiology.”
Sam V recalled that, growing up, he saw his dad, uncle, and grandfather as “larger-than-life” men. “They were guys’ guys who did all this cool stuff,” he said. “I heard stories of helicopter skiing, kayaking, windsurfing, and also stories about the operating room. I wanted to be just like them and that included being a surgeon.
“From a young age, I was able to go into the operating room, observe surgeries, and follow my dad on rounds in the hospital. Medical school was always the goal for me.”
It was through pursuing surgery that Sam V found radiology. “I loved the heavy emphasis on anatomy and the opportunity to work with many different specialties,” he said. “Breast imaging in particular allows me to see patients, perform procedures, and work with a multidisciplinary team in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer.”
“His devotion to not only our family, but to the community he serves, is one of the things I love most about him,” Ekin said. “He has an eagerness to continue to learn and research which inspires me. He dotes on his girls, and we adore him.”
June, Peggy, Cecile, and Ekin are now all members of the Washington-Unicoi-Johnson County Medical Alliance, supporting their husbands’ work through healthcare-related volunteering. June was president of the Alliance from 1969 to 1970.
“I’m very excited to get to serve and experience being an Alliance member with Ekin, June, and Cecile,” Peggy said. “I greatly appreciate what the Alliance does for our community.”
The Washington-Unicoi-Johnson County Medical Alliance supports the local medical community, provides volunteer services and funds for health-related organizations, and promotes healthy lifestyles in the tri-county area.