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New YMCA to be named for philanthropist Dr. Purks

The YMCA to be built in Vicksburg will bear the name of Vicksburg physician and philanthropist Dr. William K. Purks, Y officials announced Tuesday.

Purks, a native of Greensboro, Ga., and one of the founders of the Vicksburg Hospital and Vicksburg Clinic, has been associated with the Junious Ward Johnson YMCA since 1954 when he became a member of the board of directors. He was named to the Y’s local board of trustees in 1982.

The building that will be named for Purks, who is retired from medical practice, will be built on a 12-acre tract south of East Clay Street.

Officials of the local Y decided in 1999 and announced intentions to move the main operation of the Y from the building on Clay Street in downtown Vicksburg where it has been since 1923. That downtown building was built from donations from Fannie Willis Johnson in honor of her late husband.

A 35,000-square-foot building is planned for the site with construction to begin in 2001. The opening will be in 2002.

The new building will be named the William Kendrick Purks Center of the Junious Ward Johnson Memorial YMCA, said Herb Wilkinson, executive director of Y operations in the area. Vicksburg Y branches are the Raworth and Ver Beck facilities north and south of Vicksburg and Warner-Tully YMCA Camp in Claiborne County.

Wilkinson said the board of directors and board of trustees voted to name the facility after Purks at their November meeting. The decision was officially announced at the directors’ and trustees’ Christmas luncheon Tuesday.

“He was a longstanding member of the board of directors, he was a past president and he was a longstanding member of the trustees,” Wilkinson said.

He also called the local physician an influential benefactor of the Y.

Purks, 96, was associated with the Y when Wilkinson became executive director in 1967 and served his two terms as Y president in 1969 and 1970.

“I think it’s great,” said Bobby Bailess, outgoing president of the Y board. “He has given so much to the Y, to this community and to the medical profession.”

The resolution passed by the YMCA leadership naming the center for Purks pointed out he had served as chief of medical service for the Vicksburg Hospital from 1934 to 1973, was chief of staff from 1962 to 1973, was an instructor at the University of Mississippi Medical School from 1955 to 1982 and was a Fellow of the American College of Physicians.

Among his other accomplishments are co-founder of the Mississippi Heart Association, president of the Vicksburg Kiwanis Club, a member of the board of trustees of the Vicksburg Municipal Separate School District for 15 years and school board president from 1955 to 1960, elder of First Presbyterian Church and a founder, trustee and chairman of the Vicksburg Medical Foundation.

The Y building in downtown Vicksburg has been sold to T. Michael and Judy Hayes, a Nashville architect and his wife. The couple plan to convert the building into 27 one- and two-bedroom condominiums.