Dr. John Bowman Banks’ home and first office was in this house, which was constructed sometime between 1886 and 1892. Dr. Banks was issued his Mississippi medical license in 1885, and filed to practice in Natchez in 1889. The first instance I found of Dr. Banks in the news was 1897 when refugees from the Davis Island flood were brought to Natchez (The Weekly Democrat, Apr 21, 1897, p. 5). Louis Kastor (son of Sarah Smith Russell), was elected treasurer of the committee for relief, and Dr. J. B. Banks was a member of the finance committee, as was C. H. Russell (also son of Sarah Smith Russell).
The above named committee [including many other members of the African American community in Natchez] proposes to co-operate and act in conjunction with the white committees having the same purposes in view, and will be pleased to undertake any duties that they may be designated to perform in connection with the relief work in hand.
Although Dr. Banks did not file his medical license in Natchez until 1889, he was obviously involved in the community some time prior. In 1889, he visited the city in consideration of establishing his medical practice.
Meharry Medical College (not Mehany) was founded in 1876 and was the first medical school in the South for African Americans. When his medical degree was conferred, John Bowman Banks was awarded second prize of a clinical thermometer for having “reached the highest percent” during his studies (The Tennessean, 27 Feb 1885, p. 4). J. B. Banks of Summit was issued a license from the Board of Medical Examiners in Jackson, Mississippi in 1885 (The State Ledger, 10 Apr 1885, p. 4).
Indeed, according to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and Mary Warren Miller (1995), Dr. Banks opened his offices in this c. 1890 Queen Anne house on St. Catherine Street. The frame house
…rests on brick piers…main hipped roof with multi-gabled dormers…novelty grooved siding…pressed metal shingles…metal wave crests on dormer peaks…balcony…octagonal bay…fluted Colonial Revival columns on porch…
Sometime between 1904 and 1910, the house was remodeled into a Colonial Revival style.
Dr. Banks was a valued member of the Natchez community, and in 1905 was one of six incorporators of the Bluff City Savings Bank (Natchez Democrat, Dec. 15, 1905). In 1907 he went to Nashville to assist his son, Dr. O. M. Banks (Natchez Democrat, Mar. 21, 1907). The son Dr. Banks returned to Natchez for a period of time, and then moved to Colorado “out West for his health”, where Dr. J. B. Banks visited him in July (Natchez Democrat, Jul 19, 1907). Dr. Banks was president of the Bluff City Bank in 1909, at the same time Charles Banks was president of the Mound Bayou Bank (Natchez Democrat, Feb 28, 1909), one of nine banks owned and operated by African Americans in Mississippi. In March 1909, Dr. Banks moved his office from 608 Franklin street to 121 North Union street, next to the Bluff City Savings Bank.
Dr. John Bowman Banks died at age 49 from a cerebral hemorrhage on December 30, 1912 (Natchez Democrat, 12 Jan 1912, p. 2) leaving behind a wife and children.
The more I learn about the history of African Americans in Natchez, the more I realize how much more there is to discover.