Cover photo for Norman  B. Pursley, M.D.'s Obituary
Norman  B. Pursley, M.D. Profile Photo
1925 Norman 2021

Norman B. Pursley, M.D.

December 31, 1925 — June 14, 2021

Dr. Norman Brundage Pursley, Sr., 95, died at his home surrounded by family on June 14, 2021 after an extended illness. He was born in Griffin, Georgia on December 31, 1925.

Dr. Pursley was a loving husband to his late wife “Flo” of 70 years, a loving and patient father, and a beloved grandfather and great grandfather. In his personal life, he was a generous, gracious, and compassionate man who had many friends locally, regionally, and across the country. In his professional life, he was a visionary and a dedicated advocate. He used his many talents to champion the needs and promote the well-being of persons with disabilities and their families.

He is preceded in death by his wife, Florence Morris Pursley; daughter, Dorothy June Pursley; grandson, Lincoln Davis Cooley; parents, Frank S. Pursley and Willie Brundage Pursley Saffold; two brothers, Frank S. Pursley and Samuel C. Pursley; and sister, Marguerite Pursley. He leaves his nine children, Suzanne Pursley-Crotteau (Gary), Norman B. “Brundy” Pursley, Jr., George C. Pursley (Brigid), Catherine Cooley, Claire Pursley-Watson (Aaron), William S. Pursley (Kathleen), Louise Waters (Norman), Elaine Myers (Jack), and Alice Woods; twenty-two grandchildren; fourteen great grandchildren; three sisters-in-law, Mary Alice Lockhart, Risa Newsome, and Glenda Morris; and multiple nephews and nieces.

Dr. Pursley was a graduate of the University of Georgia (1944) and the Medical College of Georgia (1948). He began his medical career in general practice in Hiawassee, Georgia (1948) and from there he began his 35-year career in institutional medicine with the State of Georgia. He first accepted a position at Central State Hospital as Senior Physician in Psychiatry (1949-1951) and then Superintendent of Gracewood and later Gracewood State School and Hospital (GSSH) (1951-1985). Upon his arrival, Gracewood only provided minimal custodial care. By the mid-1960s, Gracewood’s name had been changed to Gracewood State School and Hospital. There were approximately 1900 residents with about 1200 employees that required an increase in the annual budget from 7 million to 10 million dollars. By the 1970s, there were still about 1900 residents and the number of employees had grown to approximately 5000. A full range of programs were offered in support of not only the care, but the training of the residents making GSSH the fifth largest employer in the CSRA under the direction of Dr. Pursley.

In 1999, Dr. Pursley was named the Medical College of Georgia Distinguished Alumni. His friend and colleague Dr. Donald Dunagen wrote in support of this award, “Dr. Pursley has made a difference. He has worked tirelessly to make life more pleasant and productive for the mentally retarded [persons with intellectual disability] and to offer direction to help society meet their needs. He is a person of character who feels deeply for others. As Superintendent, he was never too busy to speak to a staff member, client, or parent. He was very supportive of all the staff and worked to obtain funding to assure that GSSH clients received the best care possible.”

While serving as a consultant to the President’s Committee on Mental Retardation from 1966 to 1971, Dr. Pursley was involved in a movement which stimulated professionals to become more interested in the field of mental retardation [current preferred language is intellectual disability or cognitive delay], encouraged the development of university affiliated MR facilities and research centers, urged educational agencies to concentrate on developing programs for intellectually disabled persons and encouraged vocational rehabilitation to develop programs specifically for the intellectually disabled. His vision and advocacy were not limited to institutions- much of his efforts resulted in increased community services including services for inclusivity of special education school-based programs, pre-vocational training, sheltered workshops, recreational programs, facility-based and community-based programs so that clients are served where they are located with age appropriate and disability specific programs. Additionally, he was a consultant and advisor on a national committee led by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in founding “Special Olympics” as a worldwide community program for the disabled.

Institutions in the 1950s provided custodial care. Dr. Pursley “opened up” GSSH inviting visitors especially parents and parent groups. This helped parents see that there were more possibilities for their children which stimulated them to form the Georgia Association for the Mentally Retarded. Additionally, the GSSH training program for medical students educated hundreds of physicians to prepare them to meet the medical needs of the disabled in the Clinical Training Program in Mental Retardation in conjunction with MCG. Along with MCG, he established The Metabolic Research Laboratory, The Chromosome Research Laboratory, and the Animal Surgical Research Laboratory at GSSH that resulted in pioneer research in the fields of metabolic diseases, chromosomal abnormalities (a precursor to the field of Genomics today), and surgical procedures.

Dr. Pursley’s vitae is replete with honors and accomplishments which speak to a life of dedication to his vision and advocacy. He was an Assistant Clinical Professor of Pediatrics (1952-1979) and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry (1981-1986) at the Medical College of Georgia; a panelist at the White House Conference on Mental Retardation (1963); a member of the first President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities (PCPID) [formerly - President’s Committee on Mental Retardation] under the leadership of Muriel Humphreys (1966-1971); and a panel member appointed by President Kennedy to develop a “National Plan to Combat Mental Retardation.” He was a Past President of the Georgia Public Health Association and the National Association of Superintendents of Public Residential Facilities for the Mentally Retarded; the Medical Building at GSSH was named the Norman B. Pursley, MD, Health Services Center; Listed in Who’s Who in America; recipient for SEASMD’s Richard B. Dillard Distinguished Service Award; American Association on Mental Deficiency’s Distinguished Service Award; Division of Rehabilitation Services of Georgia Department of Human Resources Honors Award; National Association of Superintendents of Public Residential Facilities for the Mentally Retarded Leadership Award; Administrators Developmental Disabilities, Southern Region, Achievement of Excellence Award; Honorary Membership, Georgia Public Health Association; Foster Grandparent/Senior Companion Program Outstanding Support Award; Recognition for Great Achievement for Retarded Citizens, Their Families, and Friends from Augusta Association for Retarded Citizens; South Carolina Department of Mental Retardation Acknowledgement of Gratitude on Behalf of the Mentally Retarded of the State; and commissioned as a Kentucky Colonel by the governor of Kentucky for his noteworthy accomplishments and outstanding service to our community, state, and nation. At his retirement celebration, he received Resolutions of Commendation from the Georgia House of Representatives, Board of Human Resources, Governor of the State of Georgia, and Georgia Department of Human Resources. He was also recognized by Region 12 MHMRSA Service Board for 50 years of service to the citizens of Georgia for his life’s work at GSSH, and his consultant and volunteer work in retirement. His dedication to his fellow man also carried over into his work through the Augusta Exchange Club where Dr. Pursley served more than 60 years and was recipient of the Book of Golden Deeds Award- which recognizes volunteers who dedicate countless hours of their time and talents to make our communities a better place to live.

Dr. Pursley retired to live on the lake in Lincoln County. His retirement spanned 36 years so he had the pleasure of being retired longer than he had worked even though he did continue some consulting work for Georgia Region 12 and some consulting work for Lincoln County development for Walker Norman, County Commissioner. He and his wife “Flo” were very active at Lincolnton United Methodist Church and the Lincoln County Historical Society. Dr. Pursley was Past-President of the Historical Society. He and Flo were founders of the Lincoln County Historical Park and Pioneers Days and are considered the absolute stalwarts of the organization. Pioneers Days has been celebrated for the past 21 years on the third Saturday in November and the tradition will continue as the Pursley family continues to man the southern cooking venues. Mostly, though, he and Flo enjoyed spending time with their children and grandchildren sharing their “lake life” of fishing, boating, and gardening along with some traveling. They spent a lot of time with grandchildren modeling for them and mentoring them as to how to be and live in the world as responsible, contributing citizens.

The family will receive friends from 5-8:00 P.M. Thursday, June 24, 2021 at Platt’s Funeral Home Belair Road.

A Celebration of Dr. Pursley’s life and service will take place at 11:00 A.M. Friday, June 25, 2021 Trinity-on-the-Hill United Methodist Church in Augusta with Rev. Deborah Griffith officiating and Dr. Randy Kanipe assisting. The Augusta Exchange Club will serve as honorary pallbearers. There will be a reception immediately following the service in Wesley Hall.

A private interment of the ashes will take place at Clinton United Methodist Church Cemetery near Gray where Dr. Pursley will be laid to rest alongside his beloved wife and daughter.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to the J. Harold Harrison, MD Fellows Fund, 720 St. Sebastian Way, Ste. 150, Augusta, Georgia 30901; Lincolnton United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 85, Lincolnton, Georgia 3081; or to the Lincoln County Historical Society, P.O. Box 869, Lincolnton, Georgia 30817.

Please sign the guestbook and send condolences to www.plattsfuneralhome.com.

Platt’s Funeral Home, 337 North Belair Rd, Evans, GA 30809

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Norman B. Pursley, M.D., please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Visitation

Thursday, June 24, 2021

5:00 - 8:00 pm (Eastern time)

Platt's Funeral Home - Evans Location

337 North Belair Road, Evans, GA 30809

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Service

Friday, June 25, 2021

Starts at 11:00 am (Eastern time)

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