Sometimes we become so accustomed to locally important names that we tend to forget the people behind those names.
We really shouldn’t.
Take the names “T.C. Thompson” and “Erlanger,” for example.
Currently in the news is controversy over the names long associated with “T.C. Thompson Children’s Hospital” and “Erlanger Health System.”
Those names have been applied in recent years to our fine combined public hospital on East Third Street.
Why a name controversy now?
It has been proposed, for marketing purposes (though not “officially”), that the Thompson name be dropped. The new reference would simply be “Children’s Hospital at Erlanger.”
But understandably, some Thompson descendants, though living far from Chattanooga — plus some Chattanoogans — don’t want the full, historic T.C. Thompson name discarded.
Who was T.C. Thompson?
He was Thomas Clarkson Thompson, mayor of Chattanooga from 1909 to 1915.
The hospital that bears his name originated as a completely separate hospital for children on Glenwood Drive, before being combined with Erlanger.
Who was Erlanger?
He was a generous Frenchman — Baron Frederic Emile d’Erlanger — who had financial interests in early railroads in this area. In 1889, the baron donated $5,000 for a new Chattanooga hospital. In today’s money, his gift would be equal to about $4 million!
The hospital was named for the baron's wife, Baroness Marguerite Mathilde Slidell d’Erlanger.
Late in 2010, a descendant of the baron visited Chattanooga and toured the facility.
“What’s in a name?” William Shakespeare asked. Well, a lot!
We shouldn’t forget either Thompson or the baron.