Dictionary of Virginia Biography

Walter Carlton Elliott (1 February 1903–17 July 1984), physician, was born in Campbell County and was the son of Andrew Walton Elliott, a farmer, and Nannie Fletcher Daniel Elliott. He graduated from the University of Richmond in 1925 with a B.S. in Medicine and earned an M.D. in 1928 from the Medical College of Virginia (later Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine). After Elliott interned there for one year he began surgical training at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. By 1930, he had returned to Virginia and had begun to practice medicine in Russell County, where he married Margaret Elizabeth Jenks about 1931. They had one son and two daughters.

About the same time W. C. Elliott, as he was usually known, moved to Lebanon and purchased the equipment of an existing ten-bed hospital that was located in a three-story commercial building containing apartments, a barber shop, and a funeral home. In 1939 he and his younger brother James W. Elliott, also a physician, constructed a new building for their Lebanon General Hospital (later Russell County Medical Center) with an x-ray room, operating room, and maternity room. Designed with the patients' comfort in mind, the hospital had private and semi-private rooms and boasted gypsum block walls and fireproof window and door frames. Elliott served as the head of the hospital and by the 1940s also worked at the Clinchfield Coal Corporation's hospital in the town of Dante. Lebanon General Hospital often operated at full capacity, and in 1950 the brothers expanded it to fifty-four beds. About ten years later they added a modern laboratory and more rooms, bringing the total number of beds to ninety. Always looking to expand his knowledge, Elliott traveled to the Mayo Clinic to learn about extracting thyroid tumors. Elliott's brother later described him as aggressive in his treatment of patients, going so far as to open the abdomens of patients with acute symptoms simply to examine them.

Elliott was a Democrat and in 1951 won election to a two-year term representing Russell County in the House of Delegates. He won reelection six consecutive times and served until 1965, during his last term representing the district consisting of Russell and Dickenson Counties. Elliott served continuously on the Committees on General Laws, on Finance, on Labor, and on Mining and Mineral Resources. He was chair of the Committee on Labor from 1958 to 1962 and then chair of the Committee on Mining and Mineral Resources from 1962 to 1965. In 1954 he introduced a bill to impose a three-cent tax on bottled liquor to finance expansion of an alcohol rehabilitation program. The bill passed easily in the House of Delegates, but did not pass the Senate. He chaired a legislative committee that in 1955 recommended the development of an alcohol education program, an increased number of treatment centers, and a university research study of alcoholism, but when Elliott introduced a new bill at the 1956 session for a five-cent tax on bottled liquor, it again failed. Probably as a result of his work at the Clinchfield Coal Corporation hospital, where in 1943 Elliott first encountered silicosis, a common respiratory affliction of miners, he was the main patron of a bill passed in 1964 to provide state workmen's compensation amounting to 60 percent of a sufferer's average wage for miners afflicted with silicosis. Elliott lost his bid for reelection in 1965. He ran again in 1967, but lost by a margin of 509 votes out of 17,677 cast.

He was a member of the American Medical Association, the Medical Society of Virginia (of which he served a term as a vice president in 1960–1961), and the Virginia Academy of Family Physicians, as well as of the local Baptist church and several Masonic and service organizations. He also sat on the board of Virginia Intermont College (1953–1984), in Bristol. On 14 January 1974, Elliott's wife died. On the following 26 October he married a widow, Estella Helton Graham. Elliott and his brother sold Lebanon General Hospital in 1976, but he refused to quit practicing medicine and even performed a tonsillectomy when he was about eighty. Walter Carlton Elliott died at his home in Lebanon on 17 July 1984 and was buried in Russell Memorial Cemetery next to his first wife.

Sources Consulted:
Birth date and parents' full names in Delayed Certificate of Birth, Gladys (Campbell Co.), issued 1959, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Health, Record Group 36, Library of Virginia; biographies in E. Griffith Dodson, The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia 1940–1960 Register and Biographies of Members of the General Assembly… (1961), 526, The Heritage of Russell County, Virginia, 1786–1986, vol. 1 (1986) 390 (portrait), and James W. Elliott (brother), Secrets of a Country Doctor (1992), 26–30; second marriage in Marriage License, Russell Co., 1974, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Health, Record Group 36, Library of Virginia; Lebanon News, 13 Oct. 1939; Richmond Times-Dispatch, 8 Mar. 1954; obituaries in Bristol Herald Courier, Roanoke Times and World News, Richmond Times-Dispatch, and Richmond News Leader, all 18 July 1984; memorial in Virginia Medical 111 (1984): 582.

Written for the Dictionary of Virginia Biography by Alyssa Toby Fahringer.

How to cite this page:
Alyssa Toby Fahringer,"Walter Carlton Elliott (1903–1984)," Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Library of Virginia (1998– ), published 2015 (http://www.lva.virginia.gov/public/dvb/bio.asp?b=Elliott_Walter_Carlton, accessed [today's date]).

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