Cumbie being honored as outstanding AHS grad

Published 2:07 am Friday, October 12, 2018

Willlam Gary Cumbie Jr., M.D., who has spent more than 40 years as a physician, is among the five Andalusia High School alumni being honored this week as AHS Outstanding Graduates.

Cumbie earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Alabama before completing his internship and residency in hematology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

He has been in private practice in Montgomery since 1974, working in oncology and hematology most of those years, but now concentrating on internal medicine.

“I grew up in a medical family, and what I was exposed to as I was growing up was the work of a general practitioner,” he said. “My dad did everything, treating babies, adults, children, broken bones, and making lots of house calls.”

Cumbie said he traveled the county with his father on house calls as a youngster.

“A day back then consisted of a lot of different things. Most of the doctors then were GPs. There were not many specialists. There were no obstetricians, and no pediatricians. So most of the doctors did everything when I decided to go into medicine.”

Cumbie said he decided to pursue a medical career after working in the local hospital as an orderly one summer.

“I don’t think I was really interested in medicine until the summer between 10th and 11th grades, when I worked at the Andalusia hospital,” he said. “In 1965, I started working there in the summer. That’s really when I realized I enjoyed it. I liked being a part when the nurses and doctors came in to make rounds, especially my own father.”

Though he set out to be a general practitioner, as the medical field advanced and medical training improved, more people worked in specialties. But after years as an oncologist, the practice of oncology became even more specialized, and Cumbie said he decided to focus on internal medicine, which is the closest thing to the career he set out to pursue.

His alma mater prepared him well, Cumbie said.

“Of course, science is a big part of medicine,” Cumbie said. “Chemistry in high school had us really prepared. James Arthur Wilson, who had retired as principal, had transitioned into teaching. He was an outstanding chemistry teacher, and I learned a lot from him.”

Andalusia High School had the finest education the world had to offer at that time, he said, adding that a strong English curriculum and participation on the Andy Hi-Lite staff also helped prepare him for future writing assignments.

“Pat Seymour taught journalism, and was in charge of the student newspaper,” he said. “We wrote of all of the events, football games, and the band. Some of my classmates still have those copies, and we spend a lot of time reading them when we get together. “

But those weren’t the most important things he learned.

“Two most important things that I liked that helped me a lot, were typing and band,” Cumbie said. “I took typing, but little did we know that medicine would move to all electronic records. It has been enormously helpful to be able to type.

“In band, Mr. Jim Nettles taught us to read and play music. It will be with me forever, even beyond retirement,” he said. “Away from medicine, one of most enjoyable activities has been singing in the choir.”

He sings with the adult choir of First United Methodist Church of Andalusia.

“Most of the last 40 years I’ve practiced medicine, there hasn’t been a lot of time for other things,” he said. “Most of the time I had, I spent with my children, and now my grandson.”

Mayor Earl Johnson nominated Cumbie.