HAMLET — During this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend festivities, a local group will honor a Richmond County trailblazer.
Dr. Fred McQueen is the honoree for the Richmond County Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Foundation’s 2016 holiday event.
“Dr. McQueen has made several milestones throughout the years not only in the medical field, but in blazing the trail of civil rights as well, said Kimberly Harrington, MLK Gala Committee chairwoman.
McQueen has owned and operated his private practice in family medicine since 1977 in Hamlet.
One year later, he became president of the Richmond County Branch of the NAACP, where he served 37 years until his resignation last year.
Among his many accolades, he was the first medical doctor to recruit pediatricians to Richmond County to address the infant mortality rate; the first black doctor to serve as president of the Richmond County Medical Society; and from 1989-91, he was president of the Old North State Medical Society.
The latter presented him with the Kuumba Award in 2009 for outstanding achievement.
“I think it’s wonderful that we are honoring Dr. Fred McQueen,” said Dot Fisher-Bynum, vice chairwoman of the local MLK Celebration Foundation. “Dr. McQueen is near and dear to our hearts. He has done so much for Richmond County.”
Bynum said she’s known McQueen since the mid-1970s. “When I think of all he has done for this county, it just fills my heart with pride. He has been a mentor to me,” she said.
McQueen was born on Sept. 13, 1947, at Laurinburg Maxton Airbase at the end of World War II.
He is the son of Willa McQueen, who resides in Maxton, and the late Fred Douglas McQueen. He was raised by his grandmother, the late Sarah Cagle and step-grandfather, William Cagle.
McQueen graduated from Robeson County Training School in 1965 as top student and president of the student body.
He is a 1969 graduate of Howard University, where he received a degree in biology and earned a scholarship in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. He was pinned second lieutenant and graduated in the top 25 percent of his class.
While at Howard University, McQueen pledged Omega Psi Phi fraternity in 1969. He became dean of McQueen Supreme 24 and is recorded in the annals of history at Howard University.
It was also at Howard University where he met and fell in love with the late Macie McQueen, who passed away in 2014. The two married on Aug. 9, 1969.
He is the father of three children, Justin McQueen, Pia McQueen and Anwar McQueen; and has six grandchildren. He also has a sister, who resides in Maxton.
McQueen became board-certified in family medicine in 1974 and said he started moonlighting at Richmond Memorial Hospital in Rockingham. He was later nominated as chief of Richmond Memorial’s Emergency Department.
During this time, he also transferred to the 82nd division at Fort Bragg.
In 1977, Dr. Bill James recruited McQueen to the former Hamlet Hospital (now Sandhills Regional Medical Center), where he began his private practice.
McQueen Medical Center, located at 104 Rice Street, was built in 1980.
Under McQueen’s leadership, the local branch of the NAACP once boasted one of the largest memberships in the state.
For several years, the branch sponsored award ceremonies that attracted thousands of diverse students to receive certificates for educational accomplishments.
“When other doctors were on the golf course, he was on the front lines: marching, testifying, meeting and confronting any challenges to our freedoms and human dignity,” said Gloria Mask of Hamlet, a retired educator and longtime member of the Richmond County NAACP.
During his tenure as president, he had the distinction of never missing an executive committee meeting or the regularly scheduled branch meetings, she said.
“We called him, “Mr. No Excuses,” Mask said. “As a doctor, he had ample opportunities to be absent — but never was. His commitment was his hallmark.”
During McQueen’s tenure, the branch won the following awards among others: Sustained Membership Growth Award; the Bill Cosby Life Membership Award; the Branch Activity Award; Outstanding Service Ward; Outstanding Membership Development; and the Ruby Hurley Award.
The benchmark achievement of the local branch, Mask said, was its scholarship program to area youth attending college. With a two-year membership and an essay on the NAACP, these students received a $500 scholarship to attend college. There were hundreds of students who received these scholarships over the years.
As a physician, McQueen is credited with recruiting other physicians into the area, such as Dr. Wendell Wells, and recruited the first nurse practitioner to the county in 1977.
He assisted in establishing the first hospice center in Richmond County and was instrumental in the establishment of Sandhills Mental Health.
McQueen was chief of staff during the construction of both the former Hamlet Hospital and the current one.
He served as a medical examiner for the state of North Carolina for 30 years.
McQueen is not afraid of a good fight for what he believes is a just cause.
He served on the Chem Nuke Waste Management Board to prevent a nuclear waste dump in Richmond County prior to there being no laws set up to prevent such.
He also assisted with a carpal tunnel case against L’eggs (patients vs. L’eggs), in which the patients won.
McQueen enjoys racing quarter horses and has had 10 wins to date.
McQueen said he lives by the motto, “I am a seeker of truth and I do what I do because my calling is to serve the present age.”
As this year’s honoree, McQueen will be recognized at each event beginning Friday, Jan. 15. He will serve as grand marshal of the commemorative parade on Saturday, Jan. 16 and will receive an award at the luncheon on Monday in Ellerbe, which culminates the activities.
For a complete list of MLK Day weekend activities in Richmond County, like the group’s Facebook page at Richmond County Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Foundation or call Curtis Ingram at 910-206-1240.