By: Raquel Williams
Webster’s dictionary defines a legacy as a lasting impact one has on the world. Some people may even think it’s a gift that could be passed down through generations, such as money, property, or stories. In 2022 most would think of the business – or the profits from a business. But for Dr. Wells, legacy is not just dreaming big but achieving that dream while working to change the world for the better. Her focus has always been and is still on others, and she set out to ensure that everything she did would benefit others and their well-being. Ten people who have encountered Dr. Wells in various ways were asked to number a priority list for Dr. Wells. The list consisted of healthcare, family, education, and religion. Nine respondents said they would put healthcare at the top of her list because of her dedication to the families she diligently serves. Surprisingly, if you were to ask Dr. Wells, she would put religion first, followed by family, then education, with healthcare bringing up the rear. Although her faith and her family are important to her, she struggled to place a number value on education and healthcare. She stated that if you are not educated, you won’t understand how important healthcare is.
Coming from Hollandale, Mississippi, a small white house at the T-section of Lincoln & McKinley, Peggy Jean Johnson was a quiet, smart-witted, bossy child who attended Simmons Elementary and High School. Her mom, Ms. Ruby, as everyone called her, was a cafeteria manager who worked long hours, putting Peggy in a position to assume a maternal role for her six siblings. Even though she wasn’t the oldest or the most sociable, she was the most responsible and authoritative. She remained physically fit by playing basketball as a starting forward for the Lady Blue Devils during high school. During the civil rights era, Peggy developed a passion for helping less fortunate people. Even though she was poor, she didn’t know it because her needs were always met, and her family was always well taken care of. She often reminisces about how lean things were and how they made things stretch.
After graduating high school, she was forced to attend Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena. She wasn’t happy about it and dropped out. She really wanted to go to Tougaloo College and did all she could to get there. Once accepted, she worked hard to maintain good grades and decided to pledge to Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. After receiving her bachelor’s degree, she went to the University of Mississippi School of Medicine, graduating with honors. A little-known black history fact is that she was the first black female to graduate from the University of Mississippi School of Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics.
Peggy Jean has now earned the title Dr. Wells. Fast forward to her and her business partner, Dr. Carole Mangrem, recruited in 1978 by the late Dr. Henry McCrory to Clarksdale to provide high-risk newborn care, thus establishing “The Children’s Clinic” as the only Black/White partnership practice in the state of Mississippi. Upon relocating to Clarksdale, Dr. Wells, her husband at the time, the late Robert Wells, and their 2-year-old daughter, Raquel, were received by a group of ladies known for hosting social events and helping minorities get situated in Clarksdale. Among those were Louvenia Taylor Norphlet, Lillie Jean Neal & Jessie Pearl Morris, whom she affectionately called her sisters. She joined King’s Temple Missionary Baptist Church under the leadership of Charles M. Johnson, staffed the clinic with various personalities, and began her legacy as an “Earth Angel.”
Dr. Wells is an exceptional physician with an outstanding work ethic. One of her most notable professional contributions has been serving as a member of the advisory board for the organization and development of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, better known as CHIP. She has been recognized countless times for her service to her community by professional, civic, and Christian organizations. Her service extends beyond the state of Mississippi and spans generations.
As a member of Kings Temple, she actively contributes to the Education Ministry and teaches Sunday school. She is a firm believer in literacy, advocates for cultural exposure and knowledge of one’s heritage, and is a mentor who encourages hands-on learning. Her favorite quotes are “He goes before you” and “This too shall pass.” Dr. Peggy J. Wells’ legacy has and will continue to leave a lasting impact on the community she serves and the world by positively impacting everyone who has had the pleasure to meet her.
The perception of her depends on the encounter. Her family knows her to be quirky, supportive, and controlling. Her church knows her to be inclusive, spiritual, and encouraging. Her colleagues look to her as an example, while her patients lean to her for guidance. The perception of Dr. Wells is typical; she is considered untouchable, rich, and stoic. The community of Clarksdale is indebted to Dr. Wells.
Her priorities are unmatched! The perception is off because no one really knows her. Her life is the clinic, and there are no deep dark secrets.
Last, the priorities of Dr. Wells are different yet practical.