Gertrude Nelson

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Gertrude DeWitt Nelson

(African-American educator
and Red Cross nurse)

Born December 26, 1898
Colfax, Grant Parish, Louisiana
Died November 29, 2001 (aged 102)
Pineville, Louisiana
Religion Baptist

Gertrude DeWitt Nelson (December 26, 1898 – November 29, 2001) was an African-American military, civilian, and American Red Cross nurse from Louisiana whose career spanned much of the 20th century. She was born two years before the end of the 19th century and died eleven months after the beginning of the 21st century.


Nelson was born in Colfax in Grant Parish in north central Louisiana. She received her early education from the J. B. LaFarge School in Alexandria in Rapides Parish. On June 20, 1929, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama, an historically black college, which included George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington on the faculty and in the administration. After her Tuskegee years, Nelson taught at Bishop College in Marshall, Texas. She was also the dean of women at Bishop, another historically black institution which opened its doors in 1881 and closed permanently in 1988 after relocation to Dallas, Texas.[1]

Thereafter, Nelson worked as a nurse at a hospital on Rikers Island in New York City, where one of her patients for a time was Mary Mallon, known as "Typhoid Mary". She was later recruited by the Red Cross for duty with the United States Army Nurse Corps during World War II. She achieved the rank of major before she retired from the Army and returned to her home area in Pineville, across the Red River from the larger city of Alexandria. She was a nurse for the Central Louisiana Community Action Committee, an Alexandria-Pineville "anti-poverty" program established by Great Society legislation. She worked in area hospitals, nursing homes and did volunteer work.[1]

On December 27, 1998, then Mayor Fred H. Baden issued a proclamation declaring "Gertrude Nelson Day" in Pineville. It was one day after her hundredth birthday.[1]

Nelson died in the Veterans Affairs Medical Nursing Home in Pineville, aged 102 years and eleven months. She was survived by two adopted children, Gerald Williams of Atlanta, Georgia, and Linda Nelson of the Taylor Hill community in Rapides Parish. Services were held in Nelson's home church, the Union Baptist Church in Colfax. Interment was in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Pineville with full military honors through the Alexandria/Pineville Veterans Honor Guard. She often attended the Good Hope Baptist Church in Pineville.[1]

The family requested memorials to the Alzheimer's Association, P.O. Box 2471, Monroe, Louisiana 71207.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Gertrude DeWitt Nelson. Retrieved on February 28, 2017.