Tribute to a champion of community health
For many in Bluffton, she was Aunt Jennie.
For others, she was the nurse who made sure every child in our community was immunized, especially against intestinal parasites.
For American senators, she was their tour guide when she took them to see the desperate living conditions of her neighbors.
For the Ku Klux Klan, she was a force defending her health clinic and her boss, Dr. Donald Gatch.
To her neighbors, she was Miss Kitty, who left a legacy of service to others.
The Town of Bluffton officially renamed its watershed management building the Jennie Kitty Municipal Building on September 9.
Jennie Kitty worked at the former Bluffton Health Clinic at 1261 May River Rd., Which until recently was the city’s watershed management building. For three decades, Kitty has been a tireless advocate for health initiatives throughout the African American community of Bluffton and the Lowcountry. Kitty, a nurse and midwife, was a champion of community health.
Kitty was a leading nurse in the African American community of the Lowcountry. She was also a midwife for nearly 40 children born in Bluffton and the area, as their mothers could not make it to the nearest hospital.
Kitty worked at the Bluffton Health Clinic under the supervision of Dr. Donald E. Gatch. Dr Gatch has worked with underserved communities in the region and received threats from the Ku Klux Klan due to his work and his attention to living conditions, malnutrition and healthcare inadequate in South Carolina. During some of these threats, Kitty mobilized her neighbors to watch over Dr. Gatch’s clinic and family.
Among the works for which she is most renowned, Kitty has worked across the community to eradicate intestinal parasites (i.e. whipworms). In 1969, Kitty led US Senator Fritz Hollings on a tour of the poor living conditions in Bluffton.
This visit and the national media coverage that followed resulted in the creation of the Beaufort-Jasper Global Health Clinic. Founded in 1970, this clinic still provides health services to economically disadvantaged residents of the Lowcountry.
His motto, derived from the anthem “If I Can Help Someone,” was, “If I can help someone while I am traveling along the path, then my life will not be in vain. “
Kitty passed away on March 4, 2021. She was 90 years old and has helped countless people along her journey.
If you have any questions about our wonderful city, please feel free to contact City Hall at 706-4500 or email Lisa Sulka at [email protected]