September 26, 2021

Nina Littlejohn – Founder of John-Nina Hospital

Once upon a time in Black Entrepreneur History was a woman named Nina E. Littlejohn, born in Cherokee County, South Carolina to parents Emanuel and Alice (or Angeline as noted as alternative name on some documents) on February 2, 1879.

Being raised under her farmer parents who owned their own land, she knew the trade, however, ended up doing something much different than her parents when she became an adult and married, knowing well the value of ownership. She married in 1895 to Worth Littlejohn.

Nina and her entrepreneur husband moved to Spartanburg, South Carolina, and had a home built on North Dean Street. Her husband was a barbershop owner, catering to only white clients. It was with the money earned from these clients that Nina, with the support of her husband, founded the John-Nina Hospital in 1913, putting the money back into the black community.

The John-Nina (Littlejohn) Hospital was the 1st licensed medial facility servicing only African Americans in the city of Spartanburg; (the first medical non-licensed facility being founded three years prior called The People’s Hospital in Spartanburg near Mt. Moriah Baptist Church).

Being a member of the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce, she was able to pull strings politically while her husband was able to gain secure financial support through his business contacts. This resulted in the 2 story John Nina Hospital being built adjacent to their home.

African Americans now had a fully equipped medical facility with the latest medical equipment and operating room with 2 wards and a maximum capacity of 16 people. Not only did the John-Nina Littlejohn Hospital take care of African Americans medically, there was a full garden for fresh food out back to maintain food security and nutrition for the patients.

To further her business knowledge and savviness, Nina Littlejohn enrolled in business classes at Claflin College in Orangeburg, South Carolina.

Threats Against John-Nina (Littlejohn) Hospital

In 1920, there were two fires set at Littlejohn Hospital. These fires were set by arsonists who wanted to end the future of the medical facility. Two people – Mildred Gordon and Jimmie Dresswold – were detained for the attempts to burn the facility down, and one of the two confessed that it was due to a dispute with the founder, Nina Littlejohn, which had gotten so heated that this vicious cruelty occurred. Thankfully, the facility remained in tact[1].

Littlejohn Hospital Joins With Spartanburg General

It was in 1932 that the John-Nina Hospital became part of the Spartanburg General Hospital and opened a special section for African American patients only, which was exactly what Nina Littlejohn wanted. The new facility was called Spartanburg County Hospital For Coloreds on 218 North Dean Street where Nina was still superintendent[2].

She believed that all of her efforts should be targeted where she knew it needed it the most, her African American community which had always had the bottom of the barrel services since they got to America, such as having to be treated in the basements of white facilities and such.

Although John-Nina Hospital would be part of Spartanburg General, African Americans would still have their top of the line treatment – not in a basement.

Today, the Littlejohn’s hospital building was bought by the Callahams and is now the building called the Callahams-Hicks Funeral Home, with thousands of square footage added to it.

Nina Littlejohn’s Death

Nina Littlejohn died in 1963 and buried in the Lincoln Memorial Garden.


Sources:

  • [1]The Bamberg Herald (Bamberg, South Carolina)23 Sep 1920, Thu Page 6
  • [2]U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995 for Nina E Littlejohn South Carolina Spartanburg 1930 Spartanburg, South Carolina, City Directory, 1930
  • SC Encyclopedia and Go Upstate