Command Sgt. Mj. Dedraf Blash changes the hospital's colors during a renaming ceremony, May 16. 

Fort Belvoir Community Hospital revealed its new name at a memorialization ceremony on May 16.

The hospital was originally given a placeholder name until officials could find someone that embodies the base’s values to name it in honor of.

The new name for the hospital is Alexander T. Augusta Military Medical Center, named after Dr. Alexander Thomas Augusta of Norfolk. Augusta was the first African American physician in the United States Army and the first Black professor of medicine in the United States.

“Today is about more than changing the unit’s colors and installing a new sign on a building, it’s an opportunity for us to honor the heroism and sacrifices of a native Virginian, of a true American soldier and pioneer,” said Lt. Gen. Telita Crosland. “We are a nation of military power and effectiveness in the diversity of our ranks. The selection of Alexander T. Augusta for renaming and memorializing the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital reflects our rich history and values.”

Augusta was born in 1825 and grew up in Baltimore working as a barber while pursuing his goals of attending medical school. He earned his medical degree in Canada and thereafter offered his services as a surgeon to the US military. After being initially rejected due to his race, he persevered and pleaded his case in Washington, D.C. where he was finally accepted.

In April 1863, he passed the Army’s medical examination and he was commissioned at the rank of major. At the time, Augusta was the highest ranking Black officer. He served as the Regimental Surgeon of the Seventh U.S. Colored Troops. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in March 1865.

During his career, he became the first Black hospital administrator and was responsible for the desegregation of train cars in Washington, D.C. 

Later in life, he served as the head of the Lincoln Hospital in Savannah, Georgia. Afterwards he was the attending surgeon to the Smallpox Hospital in Washington in 1870 and eventually went on to teach anatomy at Howard University. 

Augusta died at age 65 in Washington, D.C. He was the first Black Army officer to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

The ceremony included the changing of the hospital’s colors. Unit colors signify the responsibilities of the organization and every command has a distinctive flag assigned that depicts the history and lineage of that command. A portrait of Augusta was revealed after the changing of colors.

“We pledge to continue to lead as Dr. Alexander T. Augusta did within his civilian and military career,” said Hospital Director Col. Kathy Spangler.

by Cameron Delean, InsideNoVa