The Tampa River Walk

Mack Ramsey Winton, MD

Mack Ramsey Winton, MD  (1874-1969)

Prepared by the Historical Monument Trail Selection Committee, Friends of the Riverwalk.

 

Born in the town of Viola in Coffee County, Tennessee on July 8, 1874, some records indicate that his name actually was “McRamsey” or even “McCaslin,” not “Mack.”  This question of usage is particularly interesting, given that his father was called “P.H.” rather than his true name, which was “Pleasant.”  His mother’s first name was Lula, but she apparently was known by her middle name, Lillian.  Winton kinfolk are buried in Tennessee’s Wesley Chapel Cemetery, but it is unknown if there is a connection to Pasco County’s Wesley Chapel.  (Rev. John Wesley, of course, founded the Methodist church in the 1700s.)

Always known in Tampa as “Mack,” he was the oldest of three children, all born between 1874 and 1877.  He graduated from medical school at the University of Nashville in 1899, and after touring the South, decided to settle in Tampa in 1902.  Dr. Winton married Marie Frances Salomonson, sometimes called “Mollie,” in 1909 at the still-extant St. Andrews Episcopal Church in downtown Tampa.  The daughter of former mayor Frederick August Salomonson, both of her parents were natives of Holland.  Tampa was unusual in electing several immigrants as mayor.

The Wintons built “a big house” at 801 Bayshore in 1911, and had three children, all girls.  One of them, Marie, later reminisced on a happy childhood that included a pony and peacocks.  Dr. Winton did not drive, she said, and her mother took the family anywhere they wanted to go outside of their Hyde Park neighborhood.  By 1916, he was owner of the Tampa Bay Infirmary, also on Bayshore -- but Dr. Winton liked surgery more than business, and he sold it a decade later to become a “contract,” or salaried, employee of Sanatorio del Centro Espanol. 

A magnificent structure built in 1912, this hospital was down the street at 3100 Bayshore Boulevard.  It was owned by members of that mutual aid society, who were mostly natives of Spain.  Tampa had several mutual aid societies for immigrants, in which members paid dues that covered various needs, including hospitalization.  Many Anglo physicians opposed these, calling them “socialized medicine,” and Winton became a hero to Spanish-speakers partly because he defended their traditional system of health care delivery.

An article in January 1957, written by LaGaceta editor Victoriano Manteiga and translated into English by his son, Roland Manteiga, said of Dr. Winton: 

A man of few words and of slight build, whose brains and hands have saved a thousand lives and whose modesty is one of his many good qualities, [he] is loved and admired by the Latin colony.  He has served the medical needs of the Latin mutual aid societies here for more than 25 years.

The eminent surgeon, when told by the poor and sick that they have no money to pay for his services, would reply without hesitation that they could pay him when they were able to…  His great love…has been the Centro Espanol. 

On one occasion, we published an article, written by him, of the advantages of mutual aid benevolent societies have for the patient and the doctor.  Because of this article and his generosity, some “intriguers” tried to take away his right to practice at the Municipal Hospital.  The “intriguers were not able to achieve their objective, because the courts decided in Dr. Winton’s favor.

Although Dr. Winton had been the elected president of the Hillsborough Medical Society in 1938, the lawsuit mentioned above was brought in 1939.  The plaintiffs, acting in accordance with the American Medical Association’s preference for “fee for service,” wanted to ban fourteen “contract” physicians from seeing patients at the (tax-supported) Municipal Hospital.  The forerunner of Tampa General, it began 1887 and served only whites. 

There was nothing for blacks on the entire West Coast of Florida until 1908, when Dr. Winton – who had barely arrived in Tampa – was key to this innovation.  Founder Clara Frye, who was honored in the first year of the Riverwalk’s Monument Trail, wrote in 1926 of how it began: 

Dr. Winton had a patient by the name of Lizzie Washington, a hard working colored woman who had little means..  She was suffering from a tumor which called for an operation… We improvised an operating room in a cottage on Lamar avenue… Dr. Winton sent the table and other necessary equipment for the operation.  The patient was brought in and treated. That was eighteen years ago… Three other patients were sent to the place, and successfully treated…  That was the beginning of what is now known as Clara Frye hospital.

Dr. Winton also was responsible for Tampa’s first black woman to earn nursing credentials.  Mary Cash was his office assistant, and he pushed her to go to nursing school, even writing her application for her.  There was no such institution for blacks in Florida, but she graduated from a North Carolina school in 1916, returned to Tampa, and went on to be a major factor in local health care.  Late in life, she said of Dr. Winton:  “He never charged a Negro over $50 for an operation, and a lot he didn’t charge anything.”

Dr. Winton’s Spanish patients honored him in 1954 with a statue in front of the old Centro Espanol Hospital on Bayshore Boulevard.  He retired as the hospital’s medical director in 1952, but continued to see patients into his 90s.  A Tribune article said that he was the oldest practicing physician in Florida and probably the oldest in America.  Dr. Winton died on October 8, 1969, and is buried in Myrtle Hill Cemetery.   His wife outlived him, dying in 1977.  Additional information is available at USF’s Special Collections.