Doctor Milton Norrell is a veteran of two wars, has traveled the world, practiced medicine in here in Pell City for nearly 57 years and will retire at the end of this year.

Doctor Milton Norrell is a veteran of two wars, has traveled the world, practiced medicine in here in Pell City for nearly 57 years and will retire at the end of this year.

Born on March 25, 1920 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Norrell attended Southern Junior College in Collegedale, Tennessee where he decided to be a doctor and graduated in the spring of 1942. “The army got me within two weeks of my graduation,” he said. Norrell would serve during WWII for 3 and a half years. Camp Grant in Illinois was the site of his basic training and from there he was moved to Camp Bowie in Texas where he was placed in a platoon of three field hospital units. “We were then put on a military transport train headed to New York to prepare to go overseas, but we were instead sent west to Camp Stoneman in San Francisco, California. We had a New York army post office number. I never knew why we were sent west,” Norrell said.

Norrell received his immunizations and after ten days was placed on a river launch in San Francisco Bay to a large military transportation ship, the USS West Point. “It used to be a luxury liner, the USS America,” Norrell said. From there they sailed from the bay and south into the Pacific Ocean, without a convoy. “Each night I watched the North Star get lower and lower on the horizon before finally disappearing,” Norrell recalled. “We sailed across the equator and southeast of New Zealand before arriving at Melbourne, Australia and getting to walk on dry land for two days.”

After Melbourne, the USS West Point sailed north into the Indian Ocean with a stopover in Bombay, India before sailing west to the entrance of the Red Sea. Norrell spent ten months in Suez, Egypt and then found himself in England. “At this time we were billeted into private homes in preparation of crossing the channel and the invasion of Europe,” he said.

Norrell’s 16th field, 1st hospital unit was assigned to the 4th armored division of the 3rd army. As they made their way across France, they were thrown against the Germans in the Battle of the Bulge. By 1945, Norrell’s unit was through Germany.

When Norrell arrived back in the United States in November of 1945, he got in another year of pre-med at Columbia Union College in Tacoma Park, Maryland, just across the line from the District of Columbia. From Tacoma Park, Norrell traveled to Loma Linda, California for an internship and also spent two years in Los Angeles. “I was associated with White Memorial Hospital and Los Angeles County Hospital. At the time, U.S. hospitals were paying the grand sum of $50 per month to medical interns,” he laughed. “When I could not afford working the internship for $50 a month, I got an army internship at Letterman Army Hospital in San Francisco, partly because of my previous military service. On the day we left L.A. for San Francisco, midway through the trip, we heard newsboys yelling, ‘extra, extra, North Korea invades the South.’ That’s how I inadvertently became a veteran of the Korean War after three and a half years in World War II.” Because of Norrell’s previous service, he was not required to remain in the army, but instead returned south to a home base near Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

When he got out of the service, friends began to urge Norrell to check out a potential medical practice in the small town of Pell City, Alabama. “Because of what I interpreted as a feud between an elderly dentist and a doctor, my wife and I made up our minds to look further before accepting the location,” Norrell noted. On the way home to Hattiesburg, Norrell changed his mind near Tuscaloosa and decided to give Pell City a try for a least a year to help pay off his medical school loans. “My loans were less than $6,000, but to me it was a very serious and heavy debt.” Norrell called Dr. Tom Edwards and explained his change of plans. Edwards told him to come back to Pell City the following Monday morning. “I had just bought a new Chevy because I new I’d need it for house calls. On the trip back from Hattiesburg I left at 3 a.m. hoping to arrive by 9 a.m.,” Norrell recalled. “When I walked in that morning after a seven hour drive there were eight patients waiting to be seen. That was December 31, 1951. This December 31 will be exactly 57 years.” Norrell became so busy after arriving in Pell City that he never had a chance to look for another location and he practices in his original offices, next door to the St. Clair County Courthouse and jail to this day.

Norrells plan for closing and retirement is the end of this year and he said he has enjoyed his work so much. “I appreciate all my patients but it is probably better for me to retire. I don’t hear as well as I formerly did and the process of remembering medications comes more slowly than it once did. I even get tired and drowsy sometimes during the day.” Norrell and his wife Ethel have recently built a home in Collegedale, Tennessee they will retire to.

“Pell City is my favorite city and I have spent most of my life here. After I leave it will still be my home in memory.”

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