Dr. Hammond was born Nov. 24, 1947, in Fitzgerald to Carolyn Fenn Shackelford Hammond and the late Jack C. Hammond. A 1965 honor graduate of Abbeville High School, Dr. Hammond attended Brunswick College on a basketball scholarship and did undergraduate work at Middle Georgia College. A National Science Foundation Scholarship winner, he received a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from Mercer University in Atlanta and worked as a pharmacist at Doctor’s Hospital. He was inducted into the Rho Chi National Honor Society, and he taught high school chemistry for a year at his Wilcox County High School and worked at Gibson’s Drugs in Cordele. After obtaining a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Mississippi at Oxford, Dr. Hammond was the chief pharmacist at the Ben Hill County Hospital. Dr. Hammond graduated from the Medical College of Georgia in 1976 and completed an internship and residency in family practice at the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, where he served as chief resident. He was board certified in both family practice and geriatrics and was named to the Personalities of the South and honored as an Outstanding Young Man of America in 1980.
Dr. Hammond was best known for his medical practice career, which he began in 1979 when he joined Dr. Ralph Roberts. Dr. Hammond treated generations of patients in his 27-year career that was cut short due to his own medical struggles, shortly after his nephew, Dr. Kaine Brown, joined him in practice. Always a fighter, “Doc” battled through pancreatic cancer and many setbacks to again establish a medical practice in 2011, Irwin Family Medicine, in cooperation with Irwin County Hospital. He also was currently serving as an associate professor at Mercer Medical School. He received numerous awards throughout his career, including being named Doctor of the Year at Dorminy Medical Center in 1990, 2004 and 2005. Named one of America’s Top Family Doctors in 2007, Dr. Hammond was given the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009, the highest award presented by the Fitzgerald-Ben Hill County Chamber of Commerce.
Dr. Hammond’s professional memberships and honors include being named a Fellow in the American Academy of Family Physicians, secretary of the Ben Hill County Society of the Medical Association of Georgia, and membership in the Southern Medical Association and the Georgia Academy of Family Physicians. Dr. Hammond formerly served as medical examiner for Ben Hill County, medical director for Life Care Center, River Willows Nursing Center and Colony City Hospice. He was a former president and vice president of the Dorminy Medical Center Medical Staff and vice chairman for Dorminy’s Board of Directors. He also served as director of ICU, the emergency room, Dorminy Care Clinic and chief of the medical floor. A member and deacon of First Baptist Church, Dr. Hammond also served on the board of Colony Bank of Fitzgerald.
His passion was medicine, but his love was his family. God was always number one. He had many names: Doc, Fireball, and Wild Bill from Abbeville, but his favorite was being called Papa Doc, his grandchildren’s name for him. He lived by the motto, “Always Do the Right Thing.”
Growing up in Wilcox County, Abbeville was always close to his heart with the Ocmulgee River flowing through it. He was a true Georgia boy, but he was born an avid Notre Dame fan, greatly influenced by his father, who was a native of South Bend, Ind. He enjoyed playing golf, reading, watching his children play sports and baseball. His constant companion during the last seven years was his beloved dog, Osler Hippocrates “Ossie” Hammond.
From his first diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, Doc said, “I may go down, but I will go down fighting like Stonewall Jackson.” He did just that.
The last seven years of battle defined him as a true warrior, a man of great faith. Doc preached and firmly believed one should “never give up.” He never did.
He is survived by: his wife of 39 years, Jan Rhodes Hammond of Fitzgerald; a daughter and son-in-law, Heather Hammond NeSmith and Alan of Cornelia; sons and daughters-in-law, Will and Laura Hammond, Taylor and Brittany Hammond and Chandler Hammond, all of Fitzgerald; two grandsons, William NeSmith and Fenn NeSmith; his mother, Carolyn Hammond of Abbeville; a sister and brother-in-law, Kathy and William Dozier of Abbeville; and nephews, Dr. Kaine Brown of Tifton and Kacey and Jenni Brown of Fitzgerald. He was preceded in death by his father, Jack C. Hammond, and a nephew, Kent Dozier.
Funeral services were held Tuesday at First Baptist Church of Fitzgerald with the Revs. Mike Ruffin and Gene Wilder officiating. Burial followed at Stubbs Cemetery in Abbeville with the Revs. James Faircloth, Chuck Taylor, Tommy Baker and Tony Dixon officiating.
The family suggests those desiring to send memorials to send them to: Irwin County Hospital, Dr. Bill Hammond Memorial Fund, 710 N. Irwin Ave., Ocilla, GA 31774; to First Baptist Church of Fitzgerald, P.O. Box 367, Fitzgerald, GA 31750; or to the Stubbs Cemetery Association, Dr. Bill Hammond Memorial Tree Fund, c/o Carol Culpepper, 113 Riverside Drive, Abbeville GA 31001.
Paulk Funeral Home in Fitzgerald was in charge of arrangements. An online guestbook is available at www.paulkfuneralhome.com.