Miami Stories

Great-grandson of Jackson Memorial Hospital founder carries on legacy

Dr. James Jackson Hutson Jr., great-grandson of the man who founded Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.
Dr. James Jackson Hutson Jr., great-grandson of the man who founded Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. Jackson Health System

I was born in Jackson Memorial Hospital, which was founded by my great-grandfather, Dr. James M. Jackson. When my mother was delivering me, according to my grandfather, they did not have enough anesthesia machines. My grandfather, who was working at Jackson at the time, went and rounded one up so that she would have less pain during the delivery.

I was raised in Grove Park, which was bounded by 17th Avenue. I grew up on the river. I used to play in the river and go down there and look at the different animals. You could see manatees and the river crabs.

I had a friend who had a boat and we would go up and down the river and look at the different sites. There used to be land there that was private and, as teenage boys, we would sneak in and explore the secret caves that were next to a small canal. I think once we had to depart rather quickly when a caretaker appeared with a shotgun.

I went to school for elementary and junior high at Citrus Grove, and then high school at Miami High.

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Dr. James Jackson Hutson Jr., great-grandson of the man who founded Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. Jackson Health System

I grew up in the 1950s when Miami was still a resort town. It was open in the winter months and many of the hotels on Miami Beach would close down in the summer. My grandmother would rent a cabana at one of the hotels on the beach and we would go and use that in the summer.

Air conditioning was not used extensively in the mid-1950s. I remember visiting people's houses and the purr of the fans. I would eat dinner at my grandmother's house and she had a big fan in the dining room that would keep you cool while you were eating.

It wasn’t really until the late ‘50s and early ‘60s that air conditioning became more prevalent. The town was not as large as it is now. I remember camping as a Boy Scout at the youth center, which was in Kendall. It was all fields and sand. We’d pitch tents there and have Boy Scout jamborees.

My Boy Scout troop, Troop 66, would meet at Riverside Methodist Church and we would go camping in the Everglades. We would camp in cow fields that were in what is now known as Doral. It wasn't very long ago that it was all cow fields and lakes out there.

We would also camp on some islands in the bay, and one of them is known as Fisher Island today. It used to have the quarantine station on it, and that was all. It was an island covered with Australian pines. I also used to go sailing on the bay and enjoyed many days sailing around and exploring Biscayne Bay and the Coconut Grove area.

We would go to South Beach, especially in high school. There was a summer culture where all the students would go play on the beach, swim, play football in the ocean, get tans, climb on the jetty, and things I think that kids still do today.

It was a wonderful place to go. There were students there from all over the county.

I went to college my first year at Duke University and I was not a good student. I ended up coming back to Dade Junior College (now Miami Dade College). It's a very common story actually. There is an adage that everybody returns to Dade. I saw friends who came back after having gone to Harvard.

While I was at the junior college, I noticed this very beautiful freshmen student in my humanities class. I made friends with her and later on we got married in Georgia at a courthouse when I was in medical school. It was a $13 wedding — $3 for a blood test, $10 for a license, and then our friends took us to Arby's. I've been a very spoiled husband all of these years since.

I went to school and worked in North Carolina for a while. What I did not miss from Miami was the intense heat in the summer. But, despite the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, I did return to Miami 27 years ago to work at the University of Miami and have been here ever since.

I was anointed by my grandmother to become a physician when I was a small boy. She had many grandchildren, but I was the one that she gave the mortar and pestle to that belonged to Dr. Jackson and sat in his office. I still have it to this day.

I became a physician because I wanted to be a surgeon and help people recover from serious injuries. I knew I was going to go into orthopedics as my goal when I went to medical school. I was able to do that, and I’ve had a very successful career in helping people with significant injuries recover and be able to return to a functional and, hopefully, happy life.

I spend a lot of time at the hospital, so my time off and my weekends are spent working in the garden and going for walks. I have a woodshop that I built into my house and I made most of the furniture in my house. I'll make it out of beautiful mahogany wood and some of the wood I get is actually from trees that have fallen here in Dade County.



It turns out that I've always been making things since I was a kid. Those skills of being able to use tools and look at objects in a three-dimensional sense are skills that I carried over to becoming an orthopedic surgeon.

I was aware of the family's history and I knew as a boy that my great-grandfather was a very special individual and that Jackson Hospital was an extension of the way he lived his life. He was a revered figure in the household. The painting of James Jackson that is in the Alamo, the original hospital building, was over my mother's piano for many years before my father donated it for safekeeping.

Dr. Jackson was a man who was very community minded. He came here and became a part of many social groups and was thought of highly among those social groups. He was the president of the YMCA and he helped with the Boy Scouts. He was remarkable in his constant dedication to his community. It was always wonderful having a relative who had done so much good.

I think the 100-year anniversary of Jackson Memorial Hospital this year is a celebration of something truly special. We get to have this amazing hospital system that is a safety net for our community. It’s something that's very precious that a lot of big cities don't have.

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