John Lucas Jr.
John Lucas Jr.
GREENWOOD — Dr. John F. Lucas Jr., 89, passed peacefully into heaven on Friday, May 29, 2020, with his family at his side. John Fair, as he was known to his family and friends, was born to Lela Annette “Puddin” Lucas and Dr. John F. Lucas Sr. in Greenville on Sept. 1, 1930. His family moved to Greenwood in 1936 when his father relocated his OBGYN practice.
John Fair loved playing baseball, basketball, and tennis for Greenwood High School and graduated third in his class in 1948. He attended Sewanee for three years and was accepted early to Tulane University School of Medicine. At the University of the South, he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Omicron Delta Kappa honorary societies and a member of Phi Delta Theta social fraternity. While in medical school, he married his high school sweetheart, Sethelle Biles Bell, on August 4, 1953.
Dr. Lucas Jr. graduated from Tulane University Medical School in 1955 and did a one-year internship at Tulane before starting a five-year surgical residency. His surgical training was interrupted by two years of service in the Navy. He served as the doctor on a ship that laid submarine cable along the eastern coast of South America. Returning to Tulane, he received a two-year American Cancer Society Fellowship in Surgery. Dr. Lucas Jr. completed his surgical training in general and thoracic surgery in 1963 as Senior Surgical Resident.
In 1963, Dr. Lucas Jr. returned to Greenwood to join the medical practice of his father, Dr. John F. Lucas Sr. Their offices were in the Physician and Surgeons Building, which was purchased by Dr. Lucas Sr. in 1939 and has remained in the family ever since. Few physicians have had a practice as varied as Dr. John F Lucas Jr. During his 45-year career, his practice spanned general surgery, thoracic surgery, urologic surgery, orthopedic surgery, gynecologic surgery, otolaryngologic surgery, and due to his association with his father, obstetrics. After his father, who had specialized in obstetrics, retired in 1978, Dr. Lucas Jr. decided that the burdens of delivering babies as a solo practitioner were too much. To the dismay of many of his patients, he decided that his 50th birthday present to himself was that he would accept no new obstetrical patients. In 1988, he was joined in his surgical practice by his son, John F. Lucas III and in 1992 he added Dr. Douglas Bowden to the Lucas Surgical Group. Dr. Lucas Jr. continued to practice surgery until the high cost of malpractice forced him to give up the surgical portion of his practice in 2003, but he continued to have an office based practice. Greenwood Leflore Hospital recognized his 40 years of surgery by dedicating Operating Room One in his name. Dr. Lucas Jr continued to provide excellent medical care until he completely retired in 2008 at age 78.
During his medical career, he was recognized throughout the state for his leadership. He was appointed by Governor William Winter as an original member of the newly formed Mississippi State Medical Licensure Board and served two six-year terms. In 1994, he was elected as the president of the Mississippi Chapter of the American College of Surgeons and was a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons for his entire career. He was twice elected as Chief of Staff for Greenwood Leflore Hospital and served as Chief of Surgery and on the Medical Executive Committee. In response to the malpractice crisis, he helped form the Medical Assurance Company of Mississippi and served on their Board of Directors for 25 years.
John Fair’s contributions were not confined to medicine but extended to the entire community. He was president of the Leflore County Educational Foundation when they received their state charter in 1965 and became Pillow Academy. He was elected to serve as Pillow Academy’s Board President on three occasions. In 2009, he received the Bob Hardeman Distinguished Mustang Award. Dr. Lucas was the team physician for many years and was a fixture on the sidelines at football games. Once, he convinced coach Sammy Dantone to call for a safety to secure a key Mustang victory. John Fair was asked to be Master of Ceremony at the 1995 Southern Debutante Assembly. He was recognized for his support of the Boy Scouts with the Distinguished Citizen Award in 2013. Dr. John Lucas Jr. was honored for his years of community service by being selected by the Greenwood-Leflore Chamber of Commerce to the Hall of Fame in 2017.
Church was very important to his life. John Fair was called to serve two terms as Senior Warden of the Episcopal Church of the Nativity. During the church’s recent building campaign, he named the new library, The Lucas Library in memory of his late wife, Sethelle, and his parents, Dr. and Mrs. John Fair Lucas Sr.
Following the death in 2007 of Sethelle Bell Lucas, his beloved wife of 54 years, he had the rare experience of falling in love again. In 2009, he married Mary Dent Deaton, and together, they continued to contribute to the community especially through Mission Mississippi.
He was an avid and accomplished tennis player; he and his longtime partner Lester Shipley were the dominant team in the Delta for over a decade. His tennis group played every Wednesday and Saturday for 50 years, 35 on the court and 15 in the bar. They were so dedicated, that during the flood of 1973 his group took a boat from the high point in the parking lot to the tennis courts in order to play. His passion for tennis has extended to all of his 5 children and 14 grandchildren. His golf game was very good as well, and one year won first, second and third place in the same Father-Son tournament while playing with his three sons. John Fair often spoke about regularly shooting his age after he had turned 80, but enjoyed the companionship of his golfing buddies the most. He was a huge sports fan. His favorite teams were Ole Miss Rebels football and St. Louis Cardinals baseball. He rarely missed a home Ole Miss football games, and in his youth would ride the train with his cousins to see the Cardinals play in St. Louis.
Medicine, church, and community have been important to Dr. Lucas Jr, but his strongest love has been for his family. This was exemplified by 44 consecutive “Lucas Family Vacations” at the beach. Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving were occasions for the family to gather. At times he and Mary Dent hosted over 50 family members at their home for seated dinners. John Fair’s life has blessed not only his family but also thousands of people. He exemplified a true gentleman, a compassionate physician, and devoted husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, friend and mentor, and for that we are eternally grateful.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Dr. John F. Lucas Sr. and Mrs. Lela Annette “Puddin” Lucas; his first wife, Sethelle Bell Lucas; and his grandson, John F. Lucas IV.
He is survived by his wife, Mary Dent Lucas; five children, Dr. John Fair Lucas III and his wife, Dr. Marsha Lucas, of Greenwood, Dr. Sethelle Lucas Flowers and her husband, Dr. Hal Flowers, of Ridgeland, Beth Lucas Naaman and her husband, Mickey Naaman, of Greenville, Dr. Aubrey Bell Lucas and his wife, Dr. Toni Lucas, of Jackson, Dr. Robert Hilliard Lucas and his wife, Catherine Lucas, of Jackson; three stepchildren, Diane Rossi and husband, Gene, of Alexandria, Virginia, Dara Rogers and husband, Jonathan, of Jackson, Rev. Charles Deaton and his wife, Rev. Jennifer Deaton, of Jackson; 14 grandchildren, Michael Lucas, Kathryn Lucas, Dr. Hal Flowers IV, Dr. Robert Flowers, Dr. William Flowers, Dr. Aubrey Flowers, Dr. Sethelle Flowers, Davis Flowers, Michael Naaman, Lacey Naaman Brown, Robert Lucas, Meri Lucas Eldridge, Anne Fair Lucas, and Charlotte Lucas; seven step-grandchildren: Louis Rogers, Dr. Davis Rogers, Travis Rogers, Leigh Rossi, Will Rossi, Jack Rossi and Charles Deaton II; a sister, Joanne Lucas Lear, of Indianola; and 11 great-grandchildren. He also leaves behind a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.
Due to the restrictions necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, his funeral service was held with his immediate family at the Episcopal Church of the Nativity in Greenwood on Sunday, May 31, and he was laid to rest in Evergreen Cemetery in Carrollton alongside Sethelle Bell Lucas and across from John F. Lucas IV in a graveside service.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorials be made to the Church of the Nativity Greenwood or The John Fair Lucas IV Teaching Excellence Fund at Pillow Academy.
Wilson and Knight Funeral Home is in charge. The online guest book may be signed at wilsonandknight.com.