Legendary African American Physician in Philadelphia Dies at 81


Dr. Walter Lomax Jr. is being remembered as a pioneering African-American physician and entrepreneur after his death from a sudden stroke on Oct. 10. He was 81.

“He was a phenomenal physician and a gifted healer [and] his legacy was his ability to translate all of his gifts as a healer into the business world,” said his youngest daughter Sara Lomax-Reese. “He had the vision to see the healing side of medicine but also the business side and to balance the both.”

Lomax had very “humble beginnings,” as the fifth of five children born to Elizabeth Harvey Lomax and Walter Pleasant Lomax Sr.at their home in South Philadelphia. And, despite his later success, Lomax-Reese said, her father “never lost touch with his roots and his community.”

She added, “He could talk and connect with anyone, whether they were a multimillionaire or someone who was just released from prison.”

His love for his community brought him back to South Philly after receiving a bachelor’s degree from La Salle University in 1953, a medical degree from Hahnemann Medical College in 1957 and post-graduate training at Albert Einstein Medical Center and the Philadelphia Veterans Administration Hospital.

He launched his solo general medicine practice at a small private office on the 1300 block of S. 18th Street, which he purchased and renovated with the help of his father, according to his obituary. For 32 years, he practiced medicine at that site, becoming a leading physician in Philadelphia’s Black community. During that time, he expanded the practice to a 22 physician group and to five sites.

“He was always bringing healthcare to underserved communities in Philadelphia,” said Lomax-Reese, calling it his “niche.”

“He recognized that in the Black community in particular there was not a lot of high quality care. He was able to create a model where he brought all these qualified physicians to low-income communities and provided access to quality healthcare,” she said.

The expansion of his medical practice was just the beginning of Lomax’s entrepreneurial success. In 1982, he developed Lomax Health Systems (LHS), a management company concentrating on health care; and, later, Correctional Healthcare Solutions (CHS), which provided health services to correctional facilities around the country.

In 1989, LHS partnered with a firm in Virginia to form Healthcare Management Alternatives (HMA), which provided health care to Medicaid recipients in South and West Philadelphia. And, in September 1990, he retired from his distinguished career as a practicing physician.

Retirement didn’t stop him, however. The Lomax Companies was formed with Lomax as its chairman. And, under its umbrella, his corporate portfolio expanded into venture capitalism, real estate, technology and more. In 2003, Lomax founded WURD Radio, a local AM talk radio station, which was one of his more “passionate” ventures, and an extension of his mission to empower the Black community, said Lomax-Reese, who serves as the president and general manager of WURD Media.

Lomax also served on the boards of several institutions, including American Realty Capital Properties, a Maryland-based corporation, where Lomax was an “integral” member of the board during its transformation from a company with a $250 million enterprise value to an estimated $10 billion value by year’s end, said Chairman/CEO Nicholas S. Schorsch, in a statement.

"His unique ability to see clearly the strategic issues for the company, while at the same time never losing sight of the investor, made his point of view in the board room invaluable,” Schorsch stated. “As our executive leadership team moves forward, he will remain an indelible presence in the board room."

The astute businessman was also known as a compassionate philanthropist. Through the Lomax Family Foundation, he provided funding for non-profits and programs that promote art, health, education and culture in the African-American community. He and his wife also often provided scholarships to Black students, including founding the Warren E. Smith scholarship for African-American students at LaSalle.

In a statement, LaSalle President Michael McGinniss, called Lomax a “special” person and “a dedicated LaSalle alumnus who helped others achieve their dreams through education.”

More than being a gifted physician, preeminent businessman and philanthropist, however, Lomax was a dedicated family man. He was married to his wife Beverly for more than half a century and was the devoted father of six—Bennett, Charles, Claire, Laura, Sara, and W. Thomas— as well as the grandfather of 14 and the great-grandfather of one.

Sara said her father was “generous” and “kind” while being a strong disciplinarian when they were growing up. But, they’ve also been able to see different dimensions of him as he became their boss, mentor and friend. His sudden loss, she said, has left the family stunned.

“He was a towering figure in our family,” she said, “and someone who was integral to our individual lives on a daily basis.”

“Walter Lomax Jr. will be honored at a celebration of life on Nov. 2 at the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall in Philadelphia.”

Legendary African American Physician in Philadelphia Dies at 81

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