Our First Patient
In the early 1950s, a little brown dog named Charlie Bray - a treasured member of the Toombs Lewis family - was brought to the newly constructed veterinary hospital after being struck by a car.
According to Toombs Lewis Jr., who owned the dog when he was 6 or 7 years old, the dog was hit by a car in front of their home in Greensboro. The family decided to take him to the new veterinary hospital in Athens which was just getting ready to open its doors.
Before moving to Greensboro, the Lewis family had lived on Ag Hill in Athens while Lewis' father was finishing a degree in forestry at UGA. This gave them an opportunity to watch the new veterinary school being built.
When Lewis' mother and grandmother arrived at the hospital with Charlie Bray, they saw the staff unpacking large numbers of boxes with supplies. The reason soon became clear: the young veterinarian who welcomed them informed them that the injured pet was the school's first patient.
Charlie Bray remained in the hospital for six weeks recovering from multiple fractures of the forelimbs and various other injuries. When the Lewis family came to take their dog home, they were told no payment was expected. "They never charged us a penny," Lewis says.
Lewis graduated from the University of South Carolina, but many members of his family have ties to UGA, including his son, Robert Toombs Lewis, who is a graduate of the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine.
Lewis also has a famous great, great, great grandfather, Robert Toombs, who enrolled in Franklin College in 1824 at the age of 14.
"He gave them quite a time for two years before he left under fire and finished at Union College," says Lewis. "It is said he shot the windows out of the Phi Kappa house and that's why the front is bricked up today."
Eventually Toombs earned a law degree at the University of Virginia, then started practicing law in Georgia at the age of 19. He went on to become a U.S. Senator, a general in the Confederate army, and the Confederacy's first secretary of state. His portrait now hangs in Demosthenian Hall.