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Baptist History

Hospital History

In the summer of 1914, the widow of Dr. Augustus B. Knowlton, a very respected physician, approached the South Carolina Baptist Convention about purchasing the small hospital her husband had established in downtown Columbia. Recognizing this as a chance to enter the healing ministry, the Baptists agreed. On September 1, 1914, they reopened the facility on Marion Street as South Carolina Baptist Hospital — two buildings that housed 70 beds and a school of nursing.


Four years later, the Reverend W. M. Whiteside was appointed the first full-time administrator of the hospital. For 40 years he would serve in this capacity, guiding the facility as it struggled through its leanest years. In 1923, the hospital began treating cancer patients when it opened the South Carolina Baptist Cancer Center. The facility was one of the first in the state to establish a state aid clinic for the treatment of those too poor to afford care.

During Reverend Whiteside's administration, the hospital expanded its services and built another building which added 32 beds, two delivery rooms and a six-room operating suite. A nursing dorm known as the Lily Hardin building was also constructed on the site where Dr. Knowlton's antebellum home once stood. The dormitory was named in honor of a woman who would serve as director of the hospital's school of nursing for nearly 40 years. More than 1,300 nurses graduated from the South Carolina Baptist Hospital Diploma School of Nursing before it closed in 1966.


South Carolina Baptist Hospital continued its tradition of educating individuals to work in health care. It opened a school of radiologic technology in 1954 and a school of medical technology in 1963. The hospital also began its first pastoral care training program.

Reverend Whiteside retired from the hospital in 1957 after nearly 40 years of service. William A. Boyce, who had worked at South Carolina Baptist Hospital for the past 10 years, was named his successor. With the acquisition of Easley Baptist Hospital by the South Carolina Baptist Convention, the two facilities became united as a corporation. Under Dr. Boyce's direction, the hospital continued to expand. More buildings were constructed, nursing units were updated and services added.


The first hospital-based hospice program in the state was opened in 1979, providing care for terminally ill individuals in their homes.


This is the year in which the hospital changed its name to Baptist Medical Center Columbia. Several years later Easley Baptist Hospital became known as Baptist Medical Center Easley. In 1986 the corporation added a third facility - Baptist Medical Center Harbison. During the same year, the Carolina Stone Center opened at Baptist Medical Center Columbia when the facility acquired the state's first lithotripter for the treatment of kidney stones with shock waves.

Dr. Boyce retired from the corporation in 1987. In the manner of Reverend Whiteside, he dedicated 40 years of his life to the healing ministry. Leadership changed hands again as Charles D. Beaman Jr. assumed the role of president and chief executive officer of South Carolina Baptist Hospitals Inc. Under his direction, the corporation continued to grow. Baptist Medical Center Columbia opened the Breast Health Center, a mammography center for women, and purchased the state's first mobile mammography van.Baptist Columbia photo


The hospital's Cancer Institute opens. Formerly known as the South Carolina Baptist Cancer Center, the facility relocated from the basement of the Williams building to new quarters across from the hospital on Taylor Street. The purchase of additional equipment and an expanded facility helped make the diagnosis and treatment of cancer more effective and convenient for patients and their families.


Dramatic changes in the health care industry forced many hospitals to change or be left behind. To remain competitive, health care systems had to become more efficient, deliver high quality health care, and increase access and choice for patients.

To respond to these challenges, in February 1998, Baptist Healthcare Systems of South Carolina and Richland Memorial Hospital — a teaching hospital also located in Columbia, SC — formed Palmetto Health, a bold new, locally controlled alliance in Columbia, SC. Together, this new health care delivery system provides access to care for all people, regardless of ability to pay.


Palmetto Health Baptist celebrated 90 years of health care excellence serving the people of the Midlands and South Carolina.