|Gertrude DeWitt Nelson|
December 26, 1898|
Colfax, Grant Parish
|Died||November 29, 2001
Pineville, Rapides Parish
|Alma mater||Tuskegee Institute|
|Occupation||Nurse; College administrator|
Two adopted children:
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 at the end of the 19th century and died at the start of the 21st century.
Nelson was born in Colfax, the seat of Grant Parish, which is named for Schuyler M. Colfax, the vice president under U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant. She received her early education from the J. B. LaFarge School in Alexandria, the seat of Rapides Parish, in central Louisiana. On June 20, 1929, she earned a Bachelor of Science 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, the seat of Harrison County, 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.
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, or "Typhoid Mary". She was later recruited by the Red Cross for duty with the U.S. 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 Cenla [Central Louisiana] Community Action Committee, the Alexandria-Pineville "anti-poverty" program established by Great Society legislation. She worked in area hospitals, nursing homes and did volunteer work for many years.
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.