By Bob Holladay, President
“Well, it’s about time,” said one correspondent.”
“What took you so long?” asked another.
Well, one thing that took so long was Dr. Brickler’s retirement. Physicians—particularly ones who have birthed something like 30,000 babies—don’t have a lot of leisure time to come talk to historical societies. Even after he announced his retirement, it took a bit of effort to get Dr. Brickler to call me back . He is such a beloved figure in Tallahassee that I suspect that the folks we originally called wanted to make sure that we weren’t just another telephone solicitor. When he did agree to speak to the historical society, and did call me back in October to arrange a brief interview for this newsletter, I thought it must be his grandson on the other end of the line. Dr. Brickler is 90; he sounds about 40. His place in the history of Tallahassee is assured. He is Exhibit One in the proposition that important social changes comes less through abstract talk of “rights” and “responsibilities” than it does through the personal interaction of individuals.
It can be a bit confusing referring to Dr. Brickler; that’s because he is the elder statesman of a medical dynasty in Tallahassee. His patients used to refer to him as “A.D.”, but in my interview, he suggested I call him simply Alexander, something that I found difficult to do. His son is also Alexander, but goes by “A.J.” His grandson is Alexander III. If you go to YouTube and type in his name, you will find all sorts of videos, relating to him and his contributions to Tallahassee, such as this from Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, https://youtu.be/bhhgAk2l_sA or this one, https://youtu.be/qnBw0f0Eeqo, posted in 2014, when the Women’s Pavillion at TMH was named in his honor.
Dr. Brickler arrived in Tallahassee in 1957 from New Jersey (after serving as a stateside medical officer during the Korean War) to join his father in law, Dr. R. L. Anderson, who taught Biology and served medical director of the Florida A & M Hospital. He arrived at the moment when the past was meeting the future in Tallahassee, when the segregated “black” hospital was coming up against the Civil Rights Movement. It would take 14 years, and the construction of TMH for the barriers to fall, but in 1971, Drs. Anderson and Brickler joined the staff at the new hospital, and the Florida A. & M. Hospital was closed. The rest, as they say, is history.
“I had a very small part in helping to change this community,” Dr. Brickler says, “and that change had to do with who had access to medical treatment. I was not downtown; I did not get teargassed. That was the kids on the campus.”
Though he is a naturally reticent man, Dr. Brickler brought several traits that advanced civil rights in Tallahassee. One of them was his clear medical expertise; he knew what he was doing and people felt comfortable letting him do it; the other was a reassuring bedside manner that allowed him to be a quiet advocate for a great moral movement without becoming a polarizing figure. If there was ever anyone who appealed to what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature,” it was Dr. A.D. Brickler.
It probably will not surprise anyone that The Tallahassee Historical Society had its largest attendance in several years on February 13, and people came to hear, meet and thank and beloved member of the Tallahassee community.