After World War II, objections to segregation intensified. The 1954 Supreme Court decision ordering desegregation of public schools affected the health care system as well. The struggle for better¾ and integrated¾ health care for African Americans began to merge with the struggle for civil rights.
In Lynchburg, as elsewhere, black doctors and dentists, like black clergy, were important in the civil rights effort for two reasons. First, they were popular and influential members of the community, well known to whites as well as blacks. Second, because of their financial independence, they were less likely than other African Americans to be affected by reprisals from whites.
In 1964 the constitutionality of the 1946 Hill-Burton Act, which had allowed construction of racially separate hospitals, was challenged in federal court in North Carolina. That same year, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act banned racial discrimination in all activities that used federal funds for training, employment, and construction. This legislation changed forever the way health services were organized.
The next year, federal legislation established Medicare. This legislation required hospitals to comply with Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in order to qualify as Medicare providers. The effect of the Medicare legislation was the desegregation of more than 1,000 hospitals, including Lynchburg General and Virginia Baptist, by July 1, 1966.