Essie Davis Morgan, sister of Hollywood actor-producer Ossie Davis, was one of VA’s pioneering women.Posted: March 27, 2014
from the Historian, Veterans Health Administration
Essie Mae Davis was born in 1920 in Ware County, Georgia, and grew up in the segregated South where job opportunities for black women were very limited. She graduated from Alabama State
College and went on to pursue a master’s degree in social work from Atlanta University. She was hired at the Tuskegee VA hospital in 1949. While at Tuskegee she developed a community placement program for psychiatric patients that became a model for all VA psychiatric hospitals and authored numerous guides and articles that perpetuated new best practices within VA and the field of social work. She developed new techniques to aid in the care of dialysis and spinal cord injury patients. Opportunities for advancement expanded for African Americans and women after the Civil Rights Act became law
and, in 1965, she was appointed as Chief of Community Service in the VA Social Work offices at VA Central Office in Washington, D.C.
She received many commendations during her career, including the Federal Women’s Award in 1971 and the Speedy Award from the Paralyzed Veterans of America. In 1974 she was Chief of
Socio-Economic Rehabilitation and Chief for Spinal Cord Injury at VA. Her VA career lasted nearly 40 years. She retired in 1986 and died of a brain tumor four years later, on February 27, 1990, at the age of 70.
In 1990, the American Association of Spinal Cord Injury Psychologists and Social Workers established an annual award in her honor, as she was a recognized pioneer in the field of social work.