The story of Dr. James Still has been greatly promoted over the past two years.
The Medford Historical Society has transformed the Bunning Farm on Church Road into the Dr. James Still Education Center. Tour groups, schoolchildren and members of the public visit the site to learn about Still’s legacy and a local-renown botanical doctor.
Still’s story has become so widely known, it has earned him a nomination for the New Jersey Hall of Fame.
Still has been nominated for the hall’s enterprise category, which includes scientists, business leaders, inventors, entrepreneurs and philanthropists.
Janet Carlson Giardina, a member of the Medford Historical Society and coordinator for the education center, said the nomination was a pleasant surprise. It is unknown who nominated Still, but since finding out, the center has launched a campaign to earn Still a spot in the hall of fame.
Giardina said Still is one of the few African-Americans nominated this year. His story of success at a time of tense race relations before, during and after the Civil War is remarkable.
“I think that the story is extraordinary and speaks to people of all backgrounds,” Giardina said. “It’s a story of determination and perseverance.”
Born in 1812 to parents who had escaped slavery in Maryland, Still worked on a farm and received only minimal education. As a kid, he took up an interest in being a doctor.
When he was older, Still picked up a book on medical botany in Philadelphia and began studying it. He would practice it at his office in modern-day Medford.
“He did it on the side a little bit, and word spread that he was getting better,” Giardina said.
When Still died in 1882, he was one of the wealthiest men in Burlington County. However, wealth is not what Still is remembered for today.
“He just lived a life of service through healing,” Giardina said. “So his story from starting from his parents story and the way he struggled from social expectations at the time.”
The education center portrays Still’s story of service when schools come to visit. The message has also become the focus of the center’s campaign for his nomination.
“He was an amazing man, just to have overcome all of his challenges,” Giardina said.
The center has forged a number of partnerships with local schools and organizations in recent months. Medford Township Public Schools and Burlington County College have both become very involved in promoting Still’s story.
The center has also used social media to promote Still’s nomination. With voting taking place on the New Jersey Hall of Fame website, it has become a valuable medium to encourage residents to vote for Still.
“It’s been shared to thousands of people electronically,” Giardina said. “We found that it’s the most effective way.”
The public can visit njhalloffame.org/2014-nominees to vote for Still. Links to the voting form are also available on the education center’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/drjamesstill. Voting is open through June 20.
Giardina acknowledges it is unknown whether Still will get into the hall of fame in 2014. However, she believes he is very deserving and the education center is prepared to nominate him again next year if he falls short this time.