In 1949, Dr. George Judson Frazier, class of 1899, received an invitation from the Alumni Director to attend his 50th reunion at KUA. In his response, Frazier wrote, “… glad to read about former students and all about KUA and its activities. Hear about the wonderful improvements it has made and the continual high standard it has as an Educational Center … many pleasant memories came back to me as I write the name Kimball Union Academy – how happy I would be to be able to come back there on this the 50th anniversary … to good old KUA. … I know I would enjoy meeting Dr. Brown and Dr. Fitch – Dr. Brown was one of my good supporters on third base while I was burning the batters from Colby Academy – Those were great days – ask Dr. Brown about the BaseBall team KUA had in 1899.”
After four years on the Hilltop, Frazier, a Santee Sioux, was six weeks shy of graduating with his class when he was called home to Santee, Nebraska, due to a family illness. Before KUA, he had attended the Mission School in Santee until 1890 when he enrolled at the Hampton Normal School in Hampton, Virginia, a school established by the American Missionary Association in 1868 for African Americans and Native Americans. It is now known as Hampton University. After his 1895 graduation, Frazier travelled north to KUA where he hoped to prepare for entrance into Dartmouth College; due to his early departure from KUA, that did not happen, instead he studied medicine at the University of Denver. He earned an MD in 1903 and opened his first practice in a town new to him where, in his words, he had a tough year. “It was hard to get patients. I guess they didn’t like the idea of an Indian being their doctor.” He had no office space, just a backroom in a hotel and in his first year as a doctor, he found he was $250 in debt.
Frazier moved the next year to Naper, Nebraska, where, this time, his practice was very successful for 11 years within the white community. By 1914, he had made plans to join another Native American doctor, an Apache, in a practice in Chicago but, once again, his Santee relatives called him home to serve his own people. He practiced medicine in Santee for 10 years and later served at Fort Thomson, Wood and Gregory before he retired from the Indian Service in 1941. Frazier was recalled in 1943 at age 67 to serve in World War II at the Rosebud Agency where he worked for a further eight and a half years before his final retirement in 1951.
Frazier’s work as a physician in Nebraska required, he said, a “general practice” approach as it “involved a little of everything” – it was written that sometimes he “… went into teepees to deliver children and there were occasions his only light inside one of the tents was from an automobile. On one occasion he got a call from an agitated father as he was playing in a baseball game. Dr. Frazier went home, took off his baseball uniform, donned his surgical gown delivered the child and returned to the game.”
In 1939, Frazier received the Indian achievement medal that was presented annually by the Indian Council Fire, a Chicago cultural organization for the promotion of Native American welfare. He was cited for his work with trachoma or crystallization of the eyelids among the people of the Lower Brule Reservation. “In those early days there of course was no modern medicine as we know it today. … We tried to teach the Indian how to live to become healthier and how to raise their children properly from a health standpoint. We really were medicine missionaries.” He felt that over the time he practiced medicine, 1905-1951, there had been “wonderful” progress.
After his retirement to Oregon, Frazier was quoted in a newspaper article as saying he knew of only two other Sioux doctors; his interviewer thought Frazier was the only Native American doctor to return to his people to practice medicine. However, Dr. Frazier was the second 19th century, KUA graduate to dedicate his professional life to serving his own Native American people. Dr. Charles Eastman, class of 1883, also a Santee Sioux, was the first Native American physician at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, where he was known as the “Indian white doctor” and as the first doctor to attend the victims of the Wounded Knee massacre where he treated all of the injured equally.
Kimball Union’s 200 years of inclusion of people from around the world is one of its greatest assets.