Edward Wood

Obituary of Edward T. Wood

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Wood, Dr. Edward T., age 92, died peacefully on April 17, 2024.  Dr. Wood was an adoring husband to his wife, Mary Jane of 52 years who predeceased him in 2014, as well as a loving father to Eddie and his late son, Rodney.  Dr. Wood was extremely accomplished, starting with his upbringing in Lexington, Virginia having been raised in a loving and supportive family with his older brothers, Harry, Clarence and Alex and sisters, Betty Jo and Marie and parents, Harry and Nannie, all of whom predeceased him and whose bloodline, via slavery, traced back to General Robert E. Lee's brother, Harry "Darkhorse" Lee (whose own ancestry traced back to Harry "Lighthorse" Lee who fought under George Washington in the Revolutionary War).  


After having attended Dartmouth as a pre-medical student, where he graduated in 1953, Dr. Wood then applied and was accepted into the University of Virginia School of Medicine.  He along with his fellow classmate, Edward Nash, became the first two Black students to attend there, graduating in the Class of 1957.  A press release from that time is quoted: “According to this week’s press reports, the Medical School of the University of Virginia has accepted two Negro students for enrollment next fall. The students are Edward B. Nash of Richmond and Edward T. Wood of Lexington. Both are “A” students and graduated from Richmond’s Armstrong High School in June 1949. At present, Nash is attending the Virginia Union University while Wood is a pre-medical student at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.  Although the doors of the University of Virginia have been open to qualified Negro students since a three-judge Federal Court compelled it to admit Gregory Swanson to graduate studies at its law school in 1950, Nash and Wood are the first Negroes ever accepted for enrollment in the medical school. Commenting on the acceptance of these two young men, Byron F. Black, rector of the University, said the matter could be regarded as ‘routine.’”  A scholarship for underrepresented students at the school now bears their names. 


Given the groundbreaking nature of his academic accomplishments, Dr. Wood received acclamations from President Dwight D. Eisenhower and later, President John F. Kennedy.  After medical school, Dr. Wood completed several internships and residencies in New York, eventually choosing ophthalmology as his specialty.  Later on, Dr. Wood would proudly serve the country with distinction as a Lieutenant in the Navy during the Vietnam War, treating countless soldiers for eye injuries sustained in battle. 


In addition to establishing his own practice, Dr. Wood went on to both Hempstead General Hospital and Jamaica Hospital serving the community by performing eye surgery on thousands of patients during his career to help restore their eyesight, many on a pro bono basis.  Having been blessed with a keen intellect, he was also able to learn from other masters in his field, including his good friend, Dr. Charlie Kelman, the "Father of Phacoemulsification," which created today's modern-day cataract surgery employing ultrasound energy, enabling Dr. Wood to help further pioneer and teach other ophthalmologists in this newly invented, groundbreaking technique as well. 


Dr. Wood had a long and productive career, working for 60 years until the age of 85, and then residing in Florida up until his death.  


In addition to his distinguished medical career, Dr. Wood and his late wife, Mary Jane, whom he adored, were quite active on the New York social scene and were noted golfers and tennis partners on Long Island as members of Mill River Country Club as well Farm Neck Golf Club on Martha’s Vineyard and Weston Hills Country Club in Weston, Florida.


Besides his beloved son, Eddie, Dr. Wood leaves behind his loving nephews and nieces, including Harry, Brian, Fred, Valerie, Cindy and Wanda in addition to his many grandnephews and grandnieces as well as his caretakers and friends, April and Ron, along with many other close family friends including John and Chandra.  


Although it's sad to say goodbye, his endless grace and love will remain with us always. 


A memorial will be held on May 25, 2024 at 11 AM at the Evergreen Cemetery in Lexington, Virginia.

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