MADISON — William Darrell Austin, M.D., 89, of Madison, passed away peacefully Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. Visitation will begin at 12:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church Madison on Saturday, Nov. 16, followed by a memorial service at 2 p.m.
Dr. Austin was preceded in death by his parents, Dr. William Taylor and Jeneva Echlin Austin; and his siblings, Miriam Fite, Doris Mayes, Wilma Jean Neusse, and Joseph Taylor Austin.
He is survived by his loving wife of 42 years, Delta Fowler Austin; children, Jeneva Katherine Austin, of Greenwood, Dr. Joseph Darrell Austin (Stephanie), of Vicksburg, Teresa Austin Clayton (Duane) of Madison, Dr. William Gregory Austin (Michele) of Madison, Mary Elizabeth Austin Magee (Kevin) of Vicksburg, Danette Austin Tannehill of Indianola; and grandchildren, Morgan Austin, Paxton Austin, Austin Clayton, Sara Beth Clayton, Walker Clayton, Tucker Austin, Hunter Austin, John Austin, Ashley Magee Lawrence, Davis Magee, Carter Magee, Alex Tannehill, Drew Tannehill; great-grandchildren, Olivia Lawrence, Mary Russell Lawrence, Anderson Lawrence; and sister, Ranelle Austin Gaw, of Brentwood, Tennessee.
Dr. Austin was born May 3, 1930, in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where his parents had moved to get away from the mosquitos and malaria in Tennessee. All six of the siblings were born in Wisconsin, but the family moved back to Tennessee about 1933. In 1937, the family moved to Millington, Tennessee, where his father practiced family medicine. Even though his father was often paid with farming produce, Dr. Austin decided he also wanted to go into medicine.
In 1948, Dr. Austin graduated from Millington High School, and throughout his life, he kept in touch with his many friends and classmates. In 1952, he received his undergraduate degree from Memphis State College and then his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Tennessee in Memphis in 1955. Following a year of internship at Roanoke Memorial Hospital in Roanoke, Virginia, he entered the United States Air Force to fulfill his military obligation. He enrolled in the flight surgeon school in San Antonio, Texas, and after successful completion of this course, he was chosen to serve in the U-2 international surveillance program under the direction of the Central Intelligence Agency. He rose to the rank of captain, and his entire military service was served overseas in Adana, Turkey, and in Atsugi, Japan. He was the flight surgeon for the six U-2 pilots assigned to his unit, including Frances Gary Powers who was forced down over Russia in 1960 during the Cold War.
Since the spy pilots flew at ultra high-altitudes, their medical treatment mainly involved ear problems; consequently, upon being honorably discharged from the air force, Dr. Austin entered the otorhinolaryngology residency program at the V. A. Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. After finishing his ENT training in 1962, he moved to Greenville, Mississippi, and partnered with other doctors at the Gamble Brothers and Archer Clinic. He was a member of the American Medical Association, the Mississippi State Medical Association, the Louisiana Mississippi Ophthalmological and Otolaryngological Society, and the Delta Medical Society. He enjoyed treating his patients who came from all over the Delta and Arkansas, and yes, some of them brought him produce from their gardens. King’s Daughters Hospital dedicated Operating Room IV in his honor for his many years of service. He served as team doctor for the St. Joseph High School football team for several years. After retiring in 1999, he continued seeing patients at the non-profit Good Samaritan Clinic of Washington County.
Dr. Austin was fellowship chairman of his First Baptist Church Greenville Sunday school class. In 1981 he initiated the first Austin Family Reunion which still meets biennially with an attendance of about one hundred family members. He was a member of Refuge Hunting Club from 1963 until 1993 when it became Refuge Land Co., LLC, of which he was a founding member and member of its Board of Directors. He relished the outdoors—especially crappie fishing and working his bird dogs on quail and pheasant hunts. He served on the planning committee of the Washington County Extension Wildlife Seminar and Tasting Buffet where his fried quail was a crowd favorite. One of his dear friends dubbed him “Trip Director” because organizing hunting and fishing trips was the way to get together with his friends. He loved his family and friends so much that he implemented many get-togethers: grilled steak suppers at home, squirrel suppers, deep sea fishing trips, and bird hunts as well as small group coffees. He was a good story teller and well-known — perhaps even infamous — for his inborn dry wit.
After retiring, he became a faithful member of Greenville’s Community Bible Study until moving to Madison, Mississippi, in 2014. He greatly admired the Apostle Paul and often paraphrased his teaching by declaring, “If you don’t have Christ and Him crucified, you’ve got another gospel.” Dr. Austin demonstrated his faith in his every day interactions with people and in his heartfelt prayers before meals. His personal written testimony concludes, “God gave us the Bible. Read it, meditate, study, and pray. Love your fellow man and give God the glory.”
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association alz.org/get-involved-now/donate or to a charity of your choice.