Julius McLaurin, who helped guide Rapides Regional Medical Center into one of Louisiana’s premier healthcare facilities, died Friday. He was 90.
McLaurin served as president and CEO of Rapides Regional Medical Center from 1970-88, helping steer the hospital’s transition from control by the Louisiana Baptist Convention to allow for the medical facility’s growth.
On Nov. 10, 1970, the LBC voted to release the hospital. Early in 1971, the hospital’s name changed to Rapides General Hospital.
Upon release from the convention and with McLaurin’s guidance, Rapides underwent dramatic expansion.
According to the book, “The First 90 Years: From Alexandria Sanitarium to Rapides Regional Medical Center,” the emergency room began providing weekend coverage in April 1971. In October 1974, a new patient tower was dedicated, increasing bed capacity to 309.
In 1975, a new doctors’ office building began construction. In 1977, the patient tower completed two more floors. A year later, the Medical Plaza and Medical Terrace buildings were completed, and a parking garage in 1982. The Cancer Treatment Center of Central Louisiana, now known as Rapides Cancer Center, opened in 1986.
In 1987, construction began on Rapides Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
Among other accomplishments during his tenure as president and CEO was the establishment of trauma services, the area’s first fitness center, establishing a non-profit ambulance service for Rapides Parish, chemical dependency services, the Friendship House Day Care Center for the Elderly, kidney dialysis center, early childhood education center, and Rapides Home Health Service with five branch home healths in outlying areas.
In 1985, Rapides General Hospital became Rapides Regional Medical Center.
McLaurin was a member of the Louisiana Hospital Association, serving as president in 1968. He was also president of the Southeast Louisiana Hospital District, and member of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Health Planning, the LSUA Advisory Board, the Alexandria Trade School Advisory Board, American College of Hospital Administrators, American Hospital Association, Southeastern Hospital Association, Volunteer Hospital Association and advisory board member for Alexandria Mental Health.
McLaurin was also heavily involved in local civic matters as a member of the Downtown Lions Club, Chamber of Commerce, Hospitals Joint Fund Drive with Cabrini, Pineville Mayor’s Citizens Advisory Committee, Central Cities Development Corporation board, chairman and treasurer of the Rapides United Givers Fund Drive, president of the United Way of Central Louisiana, board of directors of the River Oaks Square Arts and Craft Center, Economic Development Council of Central Louisiana and a 1990 recipient of Louisiana College’s Distinguished Service Award.
McLaurin served 2½ years with the Navy in World War II after graduating from high school in Ellisville, Miss. Following his military service, he attended Jones County Junior College and graduated in 1948 from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He received his master’s degree from the University of Mississippi in 1949 and did post-graduate work at Tulane University.
He entered the health care profession in 1951, organizing and developing outpatient facilities and clinics for physicians in St. Charles Parish. In 1958, he was named administrator of St. James Parish Hospital in Lutcher. From 1960-69, he was the administrator of Lane Memorial Hospital in Zachary before moving to Alexandria in 1969 as assistant administrator of Baptist Hospital.
Services for McLaurin will be Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in the sanctuary of First Baptist Church of Pineville. Visitation is Saturday from 4-8 p.m. at Hixson Brothers in Alexandria.
In lieu of flowers, his family asks that donations be made to the McLaurin Nursing Scholarship Fund through the Central Louisiana Community Foundation, P.O. Box 66, Alexandria, La., 71309.