John Gilbreath, then administrator at Arkansas Baptist Hospital, needed a highly qualified person to fill the open position of personnel director and assistant administrator, so he called a trusted source at Baylor University Hospital in Dallas and asked for recommendations.
The recommended candidate was a young 25-year-old, Norman Roberts, who at the time was busy doing an administrative residency at the hospital following completion of a master’s degree at the University of California in Berkeley and a stint in the Air Force.
In his first month on the job at Arkansas Baptist Hospital in June of 1956, Roberts attended his introductory meeting of the board of directors. A topic on the agenda: a visit from North Little Rock Mayor A.C. Perry and Dr. Woodrow Phipps regarding their city’s search for a healthcare organization to operate a new hospital the city planned to build.
“Mayor Perry and Dr. Phipps left knowing that Baptist was willing to consider it,” said Roberts, “and I think the Lord did mysterious things to put me in that board meeting.”
Robert’s timing for what would be much of his life’s vocation could not have been better –– he arrived literally at the starting point of plans for a new hospital campus where he would live and work for the next 25 years, that changed the face of what would become the Baptist Health system, and opened a new era for the growing city of North Little Rock.
That hospital –– first known as Memorial Hospital, which laid the foundation for what is now Baptist Health Medical Center-North Little Rock –– marks its 50th year in operation on Jan. 29, and since that day in 1956 when the hospital was just an idea at a board meeting, it has advanced to what it is today: a beautiful, state-of-the-art, patient-centered facility easily accessible from a premier location off of Interstate 40.