Alabama Academy of Honor


John Murphy Chenault

The following biographical sketch was compiled at the time of induction into the Academy in 1980.



Dr. John Murphy Chenault was born in Decatur, Alabama on September 21, 1914, the son of Walter Morris and Laura Alice (Britnell) Chenault. He attended Maryville College in Tennessee, received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Alabama and a degree of Doctor of Medicine from Vanderbilt University in 1942, followed by internship at Charity Hospital of Louisiana, New Orleans, and a residency in orthopedics at the Air Force Regional Hospital, Keesler Field, Mississippi.

Dr. Chenault was a captain in the United States Army Air Force Medical Corps from 1943 to 1946 and was engaged in the private practice of medicine in his home town since 1946. He also serves as the company physician for the following: Prestolite Division of Eltra Corporation, Decatur; Champion Papers, Courtland Mill, and Saginaw Steering Gear Division of General Motors, Decatur plant. He was local surgeon for the Louisville & Nashville Railroad since 1947 and was staff physician for District I Tuberculosis Sanatorium from 1946 to 1948.

In addition, he served in the following capacities: as medical advisor to the Selective Service Board, Morgan County; on the Morgan County Board of Health; member of the Executive Committee of the Tri-County Regional Appalachian Commission; on the North Alabama Regional Mental Health Board; member of the State Board of Medical Examiners and chairman from 1967 to 1975; member of the State Committee of Public Health (Board of Health) and also chairman from 1967 to 1975; on the State Mental Health Board; chairman of the Physicians' Advisory Committee for the School of Medicine at the University of Alabama in Birmingham; and member of the Human Rights Committee for the Alabama Prison System, where he was chairman of the medical sub-committee. Also, he served on pre-medical advisory committees for the University of Alabama in Huntsville and Birmingham-Southern College and as a member of the Alabama Regional Medical Program advisory group. He belonged to the United States Chamber of Commerce task force on medical malpractice and to an inter-association committee on expanding educational opportunities in medicine for minority students.

Dr. Chenault was president of the Decatur General Hospital staff and also acted on different committees there, was past president and board member of the Morgan County Medical Society, belongs to the Alabama Public Health Association, was a life member of the College of Counselors of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama and has served on its Board of Censors. Other professional organizations include the Southern Medical Association where he was a counselor, the American Academy Family Practice and Alabama Academy of Family Practice, the American Association of Industrial Physicians, the American Hospital Association Council on Professional Services, the American Medical Association and Research Foundation of which he was president, and American Medical Association. For the latter, he was a delegate from Alabama (1962-1968), served on the board of trustees (1968-1974) and as vice chairman (1974), acted as delegate to the National Health Council (1970-1974) and to the World Medical Association (1970, 1971, 1972). In 1974, he was one of twelve physicians who made up the first delegation to the People's Republic of China as guest of the Chinese Medical Association. Other Association responsibilities which he has are: member and chairman of the council on long-range planning; chairman, liaison committee between the American Medical Association and National Medical Association; member, liaison committee between the American Medical Association and American Bar Association; chairman, advisory committee to Women's Medical Association; member, committee on computers in medicine; member, committee on federal medical programs.

In 1975, the Medical Association of the State of Alabama gave him the Samuel Buford Word Award for "service to humanity beyond professional duty"; the next year he was made an honorary alumnus of the School of Medicine of the University of Alabama in Birmingham. The Decatur Rotary Club named him a "Paul Harris fellow," the highest honor which Rotary can bestow. A member of the Central Baptist Church, "Dr. John" was a teacher at the Men's Bible Class since 1976 and at various times over the past thirty years. He belongs to the Decatur Rotary Club, the Decatur Chamber of Commerce, the Masonic Order, and Morgan County Mental Health Association.

On August 9, 1941, he married Belle Richardson Montgomery and they have five children: Alice Adele, Belle Montgomery, John Murphy, Jr., Catherine Leigh, and Martha Elizabeth. He is now deceased.