It was a who’s who at the Wisconsin African American Womens Center as family, friends, colleagues and former patients turned out to salute a visionary, a healer and a servant, Dr. William E. Finlayson.
For over 39 years, Dr. Finlayson has shown this community much love through his obstetrics and gynecology practice and other philanthropic pursuits on behave of the community. As a result of his contributions, the community wanted to show some love back.
The celebration encompassed the works of the good doctor. Dr. Finlayson, who was the classmate of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., served three years in the US Armed Services as a commissioned officer and was later, awarded a medical degree from Meharry Medical College, where he later specialized in obstetrics and gynecology.
Dr. Finlayson practiced medicine in Milwaukee for over 39 years. He probably has delivered half of the community’s population. Holla!
He is a well respected man not only in our community but in the broader society for his talents and skills as well as his commitment to and advocating for his patients. Over the years, the good doctor has received numerous awards and recognitions.
Though garnered many honors, Dr. Finlayson never lost his connection to the community. He believed in his role as a healer and servant, something that was passed on to him by his family and his father.
In most cases, if you were a doctor that’s all you were for the rest of your life.
But not Dr.Finlayson, he had big dreams for this community and Black people. So in 1971, he and a few other business folks came together and opened the first black bank, North Milwaukee State Bank, serving as its president for most of its 39 years. Dr. Finlayson was our George Bailey from the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” He believed in people.
The celebration began with a reception, featuring the talented young group called “A Touch of Clazz.” They were awesome.
Dr. Finlayson’s son, Reggie, an African drummer, serenaded his father. Ruby Jackson and Shirley Reaves did the welcome. Minister Hines did the invocation, while Corenna Hines sang him a song.
A wonderful dinner was served, catered by (an I-Witness favorite) Seasoned by Grace. It was so goooood.
Sheila Finlayson, his daughter, was the Mistress of Ceremonies. Photographer Robert Bell presented a digital slide show of the life and times of the good doctor.
Dr. Harold Rose made his remarks, taking us on a stroll back in the day. Dianne Bradford-Cannon paid tribute Dr. Finlayson with a musical selection.
Irie Grant, Dr. Finlayson’s financial advisor, congratulated him on behalf of North Milwaukee State Bank. “We can truly appreciate you and all you have done. Doctors are usually just doctors. But Dr. Finlayson has a broad reach and love for this community.
Diane Wilson of the Hansberry Sands Theatre Company, saluted Dr. Finlayson by introducing two cast members from the company’s production of “The Meeting,” of which they performed a scene from the play.
Rep. Polly Williams presented Dr. Finlayson with local and statewide governmental acknowledgements of his contributions to society.
Congresswoman Gwen Moore was also on hand to honor the doctor. “It’s an honor and a privilege to be here to thank you. You have saved my life many times over the years.
“I was 18-years-old, and I was happy to have you in my life. It was a great to have a place to lay my burdens down on a personal level.
A bit misty, I love you. On behalf of the Fourth Congressional District, I can’t thank you enough, you have always been there for me.”
Though he noted that Dr. Finlayson didn’t deliver hims, Steve Brown nonetheless share with the audience that he was Dr. Finlayson’s favorite patient. (Ya’ll know that started a war because he had told many others, they were his favorite. Holla!)
Brown told us the good doctor was very instrumental in his life. Brown had us rollin’ on the floor. He was too funny. In closing, Brown said, “we are always looking for a hero, but we don’t have to today. We have leaders and heroes among us right here and Dr. Finlayson is one of them.”
Three generations of the Finlayson family were on hand to celebrate their brother, father, and grandfather; His 90-year-old sister, Claudia Finlayson, his children, Sheila, Reggie, Tony; along with his granddaughters Mekeeda and Zuri Finlayson.
The doctor’s daughter, Sheila revealed she has known him for 46 years! Everybody broke into laughter. “He has opened a lot of doors for me,” she said. “I have always admired my dad.
He not only delivered children but he remained concerned about their well-being even after they were born. He is a giving person. Many have gone on to college based on his advice.
In accepting the accolades, Dr. William E. Finlayson, upon looking out over the packed room at the Women’s Center said he was seeing roses. “I see them in Gwen Moore, my good friend. I see them in Willie Hines.
“I find the roses in people who worked for me. It’s been a joy to have you here and give your expressions. I can’t thank Sheila and Ruby enough for pulling this together. It is just simply a joy.”
Finlayson said when he was a child, his parents were very devoted to the church and education, adding they wanted him to be a minister. “I resisted that. Because I think I was a bit devilish. My dad borrowed on his insurance to send the three of us to college.”
When he was in the military, Dr. Finlayson was put in charge of teaching other soldiers how to read. “I had to bring the other soldiers to a third grade reading level in six weeks. I went from a private to a sergeant in one year. Then it was decided I was to receive a commissioned rank.
“My dad still wanted me to become a minister, and my family always taught us to serve.”
Dr. Finlayson said he looks at medicine as both a science and an art.
“He thanked his family, saying they were the greatest. And again he thanked all for coming. “It’s been an honor. Thank you.”
Many of the children he has delivered over the years were in attendances to celebrate with the good doctor.
The Wisconsin African American Women’s Center was the host of the salute to Dr. Finlayson. The center is manned by Ruby Jackson, Shirley Reaves, Josephine Hill, Helen Boyd, Karissa Jackson, Silverene Ward, Kai Smith and Zatira Reaves.
Hey Dr. Finlayson, it was a beautiful celebration. Thanks for the trail of roses you have dropped over the years. Congratulations!