A group of residents gathered in Anderson Park in downtown Carthage on Thursday to publicly unveil a new bust and plaque honoring Mildred Jefferson.

Jefferson, a Carthage native, was the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School. She also earned national recognition for her work as an anti-abortion leader, helping found the National Right to Life Committee and serving as its president from 1975 to 1978.

The bust unveiling ceremony was held in the Excellent Teen Choice office Thursday, followed by the unveiling in Anderson Park. A reception followed the unveiling in the Excellent Teen Choice office located at 109 N. St. Mary St.

The bust, created by Bob Harness, sits atop a pole and a plaque outlying her myriad accomplishments. Jefferson is shown clad in a flat cap and stethoscope, while her own words mark her purpose in life:

"I am not willing to stand aside and allow the concept of expendable human lives to turn this great land of ours into just another exclusive reservation where only the perfect, the privileges and the planned have the right to life."

Jefferson was born in April 1926 in Pittsburg and was raised in Carthage. She earned a bachelor's degree from Texas College and a master's degree from Tufts University. She died Oct. 15, 2010 in her Cambridge, Massachusetts home at the age of 84 and is buried in Carthage.

Jefferson pursued a medical career with the help of a scholarship, and in 1951 she graduated from Harvard Medical School. She became the first woman to intern at Boston City Hospital, the first woman to become a member of the Boston Surgical Society and the first woman employed as a surgeon at Boston University Medical Center.

Her work with the "right-to-life" movement began in 1970 when she was asked to sign a petition with other physicians who objected to an American Medical Association resolution that deferred to state abortion laws. That effort led Jefferson and a group of others to found the Value of Life Committee, which raised public awareness around the abortion issue in Massachusetts. Jefferson and other members would later establish the Massachusetts Citizens for Life group, which would lead to the National Right to Life Committee. The NRTLC operates 50 state groups and more than 3,000 local chapters, all of which are dedicated to counteracting abortion in the United States.

Jefferson served as NRTLC president, on its board, as a delegate, as director-at-large and as an executive committee member.

She also served as president of the Right to Life Crusade, Inc. and worked with Americans United for Life Legal Defense Fund, the American Life League and Black Americans for Life.

Reporter

Carthage native Meredith Shamburger has worked for the Panola Watchman since 2018. Before that, she worked at sister papers in Longview and Marshall; the Dallas Morning News; and The Daily Voice, a hyperlocal news company in Westchester County, New York.