Hugh Lanier Farrior ’49

Hugh Lanier Farrior '49Dr. Hugh Farrior, son of Presbyterian missionaries, Rev. Stacy Farrior and Mrs. Kitty McMullen Farrior, was born March 3rd, 1926 in Chinkiang, Ku, China. He died on January 2, 2015. During his illness, he was cared for by his family at home, with extraordinary support from the Hospice home care team.

Hugh, his brother John and sister Ruth, grew up in a welcoming home where Chinese and American friends, indeed, people of many nationalities, frequently visited.

As with other young missionary children, Hugh was taught at home until the 6th grade when he joined his older brother and sister at Shanghai American School. During those early years, he played with Edward Ching, the son of his father’s colleague at Christian Boy’s High School. Hugh remembers his father’s reading to him in the evenings – Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventure stories and, to the astonishment of his grandchildren, Gibbons’ Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire.

The Farrior family was on furlough in the States in 1940-41, just before Pearl Harbor. In the fall of 1941, Hugh’s parents returned to their work in China, leaving John, Ruth and Hugh at boarding school and university in the United States. Within 24 hours of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Mr. Farrior was placed under house arrest and, 3 months later, both parents were moved to a Japanese internment camp. During the 18 months’ imprisonment, Hugh received only a handful of letters sent through the International Red Cross. The Farriors were later repatriated on the Swedish ship Gripsholm.

By 1943, Hugh had graduated from high school and, fulfilling a boyhood dream, enlisted in officer’s training with the U.S. Navy Air corps. For nearly 3 years, those young men trained rigorously for flight duty in the South Pacific. However, much to the disappoint of those enthusiastic pilots, the war ended before they could get in on the action. (Hugh later found the flight training enormously useful as a medical missionary in Congo.)

Returning to civilian life, Hugh entered Davidson College where he found the intellectual life stimulating and made lifelong friends. In 1949, he graduated with a major in Pre-Med and a minor in Philosophy. In 1953, he earned his MD at the Medical College of Virginia.

During his junior year at MCV, he met his wife Ellen at an international conference of the Student Volunteer Movement. They married December 28th, 1954. In 1957, they were appointed Presbyterian Missionaries to the Belgian Congo. With their 6-month old daughter Hope, they sailed to Belgium for a year’s study of French and tropical diseases.

The Farriors’ 10-year service in Congo focused on the training of Congolese medical personnel, as well as very active clinical work. In 1960, when Belgium granted independence to the colony, a civil war broke out. The U.S. State Department ordered the evacuation of most women and children. Hugh was one of 6 men who opted to stay at their posts.

As a young American doctor, Hugh found, in Mr. Lukusa Andre, long-time chief of staff at the hospital, a wise, humane, mentor. Mr. Lukusa and an outstanding medical student, Mpoie Jacques, were present at the birth of Hope’s baby sister Ruthie. To this day, Hugh and Ellen remember no experience in Congo which proved a more lasting bond with their brothers and sisters there.

In 1971, with the arrival of a new doctor in Congo, the Farriors felt it important to give their daughters a home town in the States. Hugh accepted the invitation of his colleague Charles Lampley to join his OB-GYN practice in Shelby, North Carolina. For 10 years, Hugh enjoyed working with the men and women of the Shelby Women’s Clinic. During that same time, he took weekly responsibility for the monitoring of high-risk Medicaid patients at the County Health Department. For that service, he was given the Shelby Human Relations Award in 1982.

Later that year, Hugh and Ellen moved to Washington, DC where Ellen took a position as a Spanish-speaking social worker at a Church of the Savior inner city clinic. That year thousands of refugees from Central and South America were fleeing civil war in their home countries. The clinic provided pre-natal care for pregnant women, and a Catholic hospital did their deliveries at virtually no cost.

At the same time, Hugh was offered a position with the Group Health Association as a clinical professor in OB-GYN at George Washington University Hospital. He and some of his GW colleagues saw high-risk patients at our clinic and even did cancer surgery for a young mother from El Salvador. During 9 years with Group Health, Hugh’s strong work ethic and congenial relationship with staff and patients led to his appointment as chair of the OB-GYN department.

Hugh’s respect for the competency of GHA midwives resulted in his advocacy for their official acceptance on the staff of a large metropolitan hospital in Northern Virginia. They enjoyed years of working together and, when Hugh retired, his midwifery colleagues gave him a lovely crystal engraved with a newborn baby’s head in Hugh’s hands. The inscription read, “Hugh Farrior, MD – A Midwife at heart. With love and thanks, the Midwives of Northern Virginia.”

In retirement, Hugh delighted in warm conversations about theology, philosophy, politics and humor with old friends and family, including grandchildren! He kept up an avid discussion about religion with his Swedish son-in-law, Bernt Rydgren.

He and Ellen continued learning with Roads Scholar trips to Easter Island, Newfoundland and significant archeological sites in Latin America.

His most memorable experience was a sailing trip in 2012 with his four grandchildren Sarah, Martin, Niklas and Brian, and young friends Julia and Santi, to Ocracoke Island off the coast of North Carolina.

At his 50th reunion at Davidson College on April 24th, 1999, Hugh received the John W. Kuykendall Award for community Service.


“In recognition of Extraordinary Service to the Community,

Demonstrating Leadership through Servanthood.”