Oral History

James Bryan II - On his medical career, faith, and public health

Interviewed by Danielle Dulken on January 31, 2019

Dr. James A. Bryan II, age 86, is currently writing a memoir about his life and medical career. This interview was conducted, while Dr. Bryan is in the process of reflection, to document his memories of Northside residents and their relationships.From 1964 to 2014, Dr. Bryan taught at UNC-Chapel Hill and worked as a physician in the hospital. Some of his patients, many of whom lived in Northside, became his friend. Dr. Bryan, the son of a Presbyterian pastor, is also deeply involved in faith-based work and has devoted considerable time to local churches. In the interview, Dr. Bryan shares that he was born in Tokyo, Japan, June 18, 1932 to Presbyterian missionaries. His family migrated to the United States on the cusp of WW II when his father understood their presence was more harmful to the local pastors than helpful. He spent his youth in Bessemer, Alabama and the landscape as well as his social and home life informed much of Dr. Bryan’s beliefs and practices, including his enthusiasm for civil rights.Later, Dr. Bryan helped influence a new church in a new era of Civil Rights as well as contributed to newly formed public health clinics in Chapel Hill to treat preventable illnesses for local residents, namely families from Northside.

The interview is part life history and part thematic. In the first half of the interview, Dr. Bryan reflects on his childhood and draws connections between his background and his career choice: medicine. The second half of the interview, Dr. Bryan describes his pursuit of medicine and public health. Here, he traces his interactions with Northside and its residents including the Caldwells and the Foushees and the Jacksons. Faith is central to the interview as is Dr. Bryan’s antiracist convictions.

James Bryan II - On his medical career, faith, and public health

Oral history interview of Bryan II, James conducted by Dulken, Danielle on January 31, 2019 at Marian Cheek Jackson Center, Chapel Hill, NC. Processed by Dulken, Danielle.

Citation: Marian Cheek Jackson Center, “James Bryan II - On his medical career, faith, and public health,” From the Rock Wall, accessed April 18, 2024, https://fromtherockwall.org/oral-histories/james-bryan-ii-on-his-medical-career-faith-and-public-health.

"We’re writing our own history, thank you!"

Ms. Esphur Foster

Want to add in?  Have a different view?  What do you think? Want to upload your own photos or documents?

History is not the past.  It’s the sense we make of the past now. Click below to RESPOND—and be part of making history today.


In this Oral History