A changemaker for healthcare in the Wiregrass shares her story

Delia Reynolds started nursing school at George C. Wallace State Community College in 1970.
Published: Feb. 15, 2022 at 5:27 PM CST
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - A changemaker is someone who takes action to solve a social problem. For one Wiregrass woman, it was a byproduct of wanting to be the best she could be for her community.

52 years ago, Delia Reynolds started nursing school at George C. Wallace State Community College. Little did she know it was just the first step in what would become a very successful career and a catalyst for change.

“I’ve always been a caring person, a caregiver, and homebody,” says Reynolds. “I just really enjoyed taking care of people.”

In 1970, Reynolds graduated valedictorian from Henry County Training School in Abbeville. It was one of the last all-Black schools in the Wiregrass. She says her family had big plans for her life and education.

“I had a very supportive family, you might say demanding mother. ‘You’re going to nursing school. You’re going to finish, and that’s it.’ That was my catalyst,” says Reynolds.

Reynolds says her sister nudged her to pursue a nursing degree.

“I was thinking I would end up at the local factory, married, and have a few children, but that didn’t work out, and my sister said ‘Well have you thought about nursing?’ " says Reynolds.

She enrolled in Wallace College in the fall of 1970 as one of seven black students. They looked to each other for support, but not everyone made it to graduation.

“You kind of sort of migrate towards each other because of the commonalities, you know,” says Reynolds. “We were there. We represented so many that did not make it to the graduating class.”

It wasn’t an easy journey.

“The way I would wear my hair, I would wear it in an afro, The director would say ‘Oh Ms. Reynolds, we can’t see your face because of all the hair.’ My hair had never been obstructive,” says Reynolds. “Little things like that was just needling, but you fight through it.”

Two years later, Reynolds and one other person became the first two Black graduates from the nursing program.

“I remember standing in line, the graduation line, It’s been two years but I’ve made it,” says Reynolds. “It was really great. It was really a sense of accomplishment.”

The excitement didn’t stop at graduation.

“To get my first job at Southeast, well General Hospital at the time, was even more rewarding,” says Reynolds. “Even with a small salary with what I think of was $3, I was like ‘wow’ that was big money back then.”

Over the next few years, Reynolds says she worked hard, and it paid off. She was named the first Black department head for the hospital.

“It’s what others see in you,” says Reynolds. “I wouldn’t have gotten a promotion if those in higher authority wouldn’t have seen something in me.”

Eventually, life offered Reynolds a full-circle moment. She took a job as an associate professor in the Wallace College nursing program in 1992.

“She always wanted to be the nurse that was caring. The nurse that was compassionate towards what she was doing,” says Gwyn Galloway, Division Director of Practical Nursing at Wallace Community College. “She showed respect for her patients and took good care of them, and she wanted the students that she was teaching to have those same qualities.

Renolds also served as the HIV/AIDS coordinator for several counties in the state of Alabama. After 50 years in healthcare, Reynolds says she hopes her work inspires others to never give up on their dreams.

Copyright 2022 WTVY. All rights reserved.

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