HIGH POINT, NC - Dr. Samuel Taylor Bickley passed away peacefully in his home in High Point, North Carolina, on February 11, 2021.
Dr. Bickley was a trained medical doctor and veterinarian; he was known to friends as the doctor who could treat anything from goldfish up. In Elkin, his office sported a large sign that read, "WALK IN DOCTOR -- MAN OR BEAST." Helping those in need, whether human or animal, was his life-long purpose and in doing so, he built strong bonds with countless friends and former patients.
He was born February 25, 1931 in Johnson City, Tennessee to Lucy Claire Gray Bickley, a teacher at Gray School, and Jonathan Taylor Bickley, who worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority. Dr. Bickley was educated in the Washington County, Tennessee public schools, where he finished as Salutatorian. He attended East Tennessee State University for his undergraduate work, then transferred to and graduated from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville with a major in agriculture. For the rest of his life, he would feel most at home on a farm.
Sam then entered the School of Veterinary Medicine at Alabama Polytechnic Institute at Auburn, Alabama, where he graduated in 1954. Dr. Bickley was president of the student chapter of the American Veterinary Medicine Association, president of the class of 1953, and president of the Omega Tau Sigma fraternity (a professional and social fraternity).
After graduation, Dr. Bickley briefly practiced as a veterinarian in Greenville, Tennessee. He then joined the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps and served as post veterinarian at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri; later he was posted to Fifth Army Headquarters in Chicago.
After assisting the post's surgeon during his time at Fort Leonard Wood, Dr. Bickley decided he would prefer to treat people, not animals. He left veterinary medicine and entered medical school in September 1957 at Bowman Gray College of Medicine at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. At medical school he was elected president of the class of 1958 and president of the student chapter of the American Medical Association.
Following graduation in 1961, Dr. Bickley entered a rotating internship at the U.S. Army Hospital in Fort Benning, Ga., in surgery and obstetrics. He then returned to Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem for 1961-62 where he completed a residency in ophthalmology. He later widened his field to family practice, obstetrics and surgery.
He married Sarah Barham Vance, then a kindergarten teacher from Kernersville, North Carolina, on December 15, 1962. Dr. and Mrs. Bickley moved to Yadkinville, N.C., where he became chief of staff of Lulu Conrad Hoots Memorial Hospital and opened his own family medicine practice. He was active in the local and state medical societies, joining the Yadkin-Surry Medical Society, North Carolina Medical Society, American Medical Association, and the Southern Medical Society. In addition, he became the Medical Examiner of Surry County. During this period, his practice encompassed obstetrics and he delivered, by his own estimate, more than 3,000 babies during his career.
In 1965, Dr. and Mrs. Bickley moved with their young daughter to Elkin, North Carolina to establish a thriving medical practice. Many patients followed the young doctor from Yadkinville to Elkin, driving from one town to the other for medical care.
In 1978, Dr. and Mrs. Bickley moved to High Point, N.C., where he opened a successful medical practice, which included both hospital and nursing home practices. Dr. Bickley was instrumental in establishing a family practice section within the medical staff at High Point Regional Hospital. This elevated family practice as a specialty within the hospital group, giving family physicians a voice in the management of the hospital on the same level as that of pediatricians. He served as chief of the Family Practice Section and on numerous hospital committees. He also became medical director of the Johnson Nursing Facility and served as physician to other nursing home units in the area. In High Point, Dr. Bickley was associated with Dr. L. S. Averett in the general practice of medicine and continued to have a very active hospital practice including obstetrics. He also opened a second primary care office in Kernersville.
In the later part of his medical career, Dr. Bickley worked as a physician at Bethany Clinic in High Point until his retirement. He continued to serve patients there, many of whom had been seeing him for decades. He tended to the medical needs of multiple generations, sometimes having delivered children and grandchildren of the same family. He was one of the last doctors in High Point to accept Medicaid, often treating patients for little or no fee.
Born on a farm in East Tennessee, the rural South was always in his blood. He had a passion for hunting, riding and bird dogs. He had a vast circle of friends from every walk of life. He shared his knowledge, expertise, and interests with others through medicine and hunting, creating genuine connections with people that lasted generations. Dr. Bickley's impact, like his laugh, proved outsized and heartfelt.
Dr. Bickley is survived by two daughters, Sarah Alice Bickley of Durham, N.C., and Elizabeth Gray Bickley Negin of Baltimore, Md.; their husbands, John O'Brien and Carl Negin; and four grandchildren, Wil, Jonty and Waverly Negin and Sam O'Brien.
Dr. Samuel T. Bickley will be interred with his beloved wife Sarah in the Columbarium at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in High Point. There will be a service and celebration of life in late summer 2021.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the St. Mary's Music Endowment Fund (108 W. Farris Avenue, High Point, North Carolina, 27262) or memorial contributions may be sent to The National Wild Turkey Federation in Dr. Sam T. Bickley's name (N.W.T.F., P.O. Box 530, Edgefield, South Carolina, 29824).
Online condolences can be made at www.cumbyfuneral.com.