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Leroy Weekes Dies; Helped Found Drew University

August 07, 1994|ENRIQUE LAVIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Leroy Randolph Weekes, a prominent obstetrician in the African American community for nearly 50 years and one of the leaders in the campaign to open Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Watts, died July 24. He was 81.

Weekes, who was also a force in the city's black business community, was hailed as a trailblazer who helped open the doors to the medical field for African Americans in South-Central.

"He was involved in every part of the community," said Dr. Henry Williams, a member of Drew's board of directors. Williams was one of five doctors, along with Weekes, who worked to get county money to open what is now King-Drew Medical Center in Watts.

Weekes, who lived in View Park but spent most of his time in South-Central developing services for the black community, died after complications from three strokes he suffered two months ago, said his son, Lee Randolph Weekes. He served four terms as chairman of Drew University's board of directors before he retired from the position in 1987, when he was succeeded by Dr. Willie B. Boone.

"This was a very quiet gentleman who had immense generosity and power, but it was always controlled. He was completely dedicated to education," said Boone, who met Weekes 15 years ago when the two worked for the Charles Drew Medical Society, the county arm of the National Medical Assn. "He always had time to participate in those things that would further the educational opportunities of undereducated populations."

Weekes was a professor at Drew, a teaching hospital, in the department of obstetrics and gynecology. He was also founder, past president and chairman of Ross Medical Center, where he had an office since 1954. In 1969, he was named the first black president of the staff at Queen of Angels Hospital, and was a past president of the state Board of Medical Examiners.

His civic and business work was also extensive. He was a member of the county's mental health commission; a founder of Family Savings Bank; a three-term president of the Los Angeles Urban League in the early 1970s, and founder of the Los Angeles County Medical Assn.'s Doctors' Symphony, in which he played the violin.

"Frequently physicians are criticized for not really giving back or reaching out to less fortunate people in the community, but Leroy Weekes was clearly a very caring, unselfish human being," said John Mack, executive director of the Los Angeles Urban League.

Born Jan. 17, 1913, in Atlantic City, N.J., Weekes completed his medical studies at Howard University in Washington, then moved to Los Angeles in 1947, where he started his family.

His dedication to community and family went hand in hand, Lee Weekes said.

"Often we'd go to the drive-in theater for a family outing, where he'd tell the attendant he was on call," said Weekes, 46, a medical administrator for Weekes Medical Group at Ross Medical Center. "Sure enough, as soon as the feature would tune in, he'd get called to deliver a baby."

That dedication to family and career kept patients loyal to him generation after generation. For the 47 years he served as a family doctor, Weekes delivered more than 10,000 babies, many of whom had come back as adults so that he could deliver their babies.

"My mother always took us to him over the years," said Olga Hayes, who Weekes delivered 43 years ago. "He was like family to us." Over 38 years, Weekes delivered all six of Hayes' siblings, and all of their children.

Weekes is survived by his wife, Silvia Means Weekes; his children Wenda Weekes Moore, Anita Weekes Hibler, Lee R. Weekes, Beryl Lynne Weekes and Gerald Wilson Weekes, and eight grandchildren.

Funeral services were July 30 at Holman United Methodist Church. Memorial contributions can be made to the Leroy R. Weekes Foundation, 1828 S. Western Ave., No. 1, Los Angeles, 90006.

The foundation provides financial support for historically black medical schools.

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