Nurses group sues to stop small clinic from using name of now-defunct, but famous, Black hospital
Homer G. Phillips Hospital was once a treasure of Black life in St. Louis, and a backbone of the community during segregation.
Homer G. Phillips Hospital was once a treasure of Black life in St. Louis, a five-story, 600-bed facility that served as a backbone of the community during segregation. Now, a group of nurses who once worked there has filed a lawsuit against developer Paul McKee, who’s seeking to name his new urgent care center after the historic institution.
“That name should not be on there,” Yvonne Jones, president of the Homer G. Phillips Nurses’ Alumni, Inc., which owns the trademark, told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Their suit says McKee’s potential use of the name violates their trademark and profits from the now-closed facility.
An attorney for the new center said it is unfortunate that the nurses are in such opposition. “It’s really a shame,” Paul Puricelli told the Post-Dispatch.
Homer G. Phillips was a prominent attorney and political figure in St. Louis who advocated for many causes in the Black community, including the hospital, which received funding to be built in the late 1920s and opened its doors in 1937. However, Phillips did not live to see that day; in 1931, the leader was shot dead, and the hospital was named for him posthumously.
The new facility sits about two miles east of the original hospital, which was once the nation’s largest teaching hospital for Blacks.
“It was globally known for the bright intellectuals who worked there,” said Zenobia Thompson, a 1965 graduate of its nursing school. “That institution was a jewel.”
The city closed Homer G. Phillips Hospital in 1979, despite outcry from its Black residents. Forty years later, in 2019, the Black community blasted McKee’s plan to construct a site housing three inpatient beds and a 16-bed emergency room and his intention to name it Homer G. Phillips Memorial Hospital.
“We’re not opposed to the clinic being there, we’re opposed to the name it bears,” Thompson said this week. “We won’t stand for this.”
Despite the pushback, McKee has said that with his NorthSide Regeneration company, he plans to expand the urgent care facility and build a medical school, housing, a hotel and office space. But in their lawsuit, the nurses accuse McKee of attempting to use their trademark, “reputation, brand and goodwill for the purpose of driving customers to [NorthSide’s] medical facility.”
They are seeking an injunction to prevent the name from being used and unspecified damages.
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