Obituary for Dr. James P. Durham


BENTON — James P. Durham, M.D., 81, passed away the evening of Jan. 25, 2019, in Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, surrounded by family.

He was born July 7, 1937, in Carmi, and graduated from Harrisburg High School where he earned All State football honors. He received a football scholarship to Vanderbilt University and completed his undergraduate studies at SIU.

He graduated from St. Louis University Medical School, and completed his residency with the United States Public Health Service/Coast Guard where he was stationed in San Francisco, California during the Vietnam war.

After completing his medical training and military service Dr. Durham returned to his Southern Illinois roots and joined the Benton Medical Center in 1970 as one of the few board certified general surgeons in Southern Illinois. Thereafter, he embarked on a 45-year surgical and medical career, performing a countless number of surgical procedures and treating many Southern Illinois residents and family members.

He retired from the practice of medicine in 2014. Dr. Durham was a visionary for the Southern Illinois medical community in several respects. Many of his ideals form the basis for physician organizational structure in Southern Illinois today. He started the first Rural Health Clinic in Illinois, and was at the forefront in helping develop legislation for Rural Health Clinics in Illinois and the Nation. He opened a “Free Medical Clinic” in Benton that offered free medical services one day a week to those in need which earned him national recognition in newspaper publications.

Dr. Durham was truly a renaissance man and gifted in many aspects of life beyond his medical practice, including writing poetry with interests in philosophy, farming, architecture, post and beam construction, bricklaying, sports and music. He loved to dance and to be with his family and lived his life to the fullest. In the family’s words, ‘His favorite saying was ‘I’ve always been lucky’ but in reality we were lucky to have him as a father.’

Dr. Durham is survived by his sons’ James “Buck” of Huntsville, Alabama, and Bart of Naperville, and daughters, Dana of West Frankfort and Jennifer of Dillsburg, Pennsylvania; as well as six grandchildren.

A memorial service and private burial service will be in the near future at the Durham Cemetery in Galatia.