By Worcester P. Bong
Fiorello La Guardia, Buckey O’Neill, and Barry Goldwater are among a few of the famous people who have been associated with Prescott at some point in their lives. Another lesser known yet successful Prescott resident was Lieutenant Colonel Raymond Whitcomb Bliss.
Born on May 17, 1888 in Chelsea, Massachusetts, he graduated as an honor student from Tufts Medical College in 1910 with a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree. In 1911 he joined the Army Medical Reserve Corps as a lieutenant. In 1913 he became a commissioned medical officer and attended the Army Medical School in Washington, D.C., graduating in June 1913.
Bliss began his career at Fort Huachuca in 1913 and met his wife, Martha Stuchul (a Nogales schoolteacher), there. From there he was assigned to Fort Apache. After assignments in Hawaii and Georgia, Lieutenant Colonel Bliss came to Prescott to serve as the U.S. Army Commander of the Whipple Barracks hospital complex from May 1919 to February 1920.
Although his time in Prescott was short, Lt. Col. Bliss was actively involved with the community. He spoke on numerous occasions about Whipple Barracks at the local Chamber of Commerce meetings. The July 16, 1919 edition of the Weekly Journal-Miner reported how Bliss, an avid golfer, spoke about the newly-completed nine-hole golf course at the Whipple Barracks Target range. He encouraged all local golf enthusiasts to make use of the course, arranging invitational matches with a cup trophy. Bliss ran for and was elected to the 1920 Yavapai County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. The election results were published in the December 17, 1919 edition of the Weekly Journal-Miner.
However, early in the new year it was announced that Whipple Barracks would cease to be a U.S. Army post and would be turned over to the Public Health Service (PHS) for continued administration as a TB sanatorium for former WWI military personnel. A January 28, 1920 edition of the Weekly Journal-Miner stated how Bliss outlined this change at the general meeting of members and directors of the Yavapai County Chamber of Commerce. Bliss remarked “that never in all of his experience had he ever been in a place where the relations were as good between the army, the community and the county, as here in Prescott, and Yavapai County.” He asked that this same spirit and courtesy be extended to the PHS.
The February 18, 1920 edition of the Weekly Journal-Miner noted that Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Raymond W. Bliss conducted the transfer without a ceremony. All patients of U.S. Army status were simply transferred or discharged and Bliss remained for a few days to finalize business. He then transferred to Denver to command Fitzsimons Army Hospital which also treated TB patients.
Lt. Col Bliss’ career continued to grow. He received a degree in surgery from Harvard Medical School in 1921. From late 1924 to 1929, Bliss returned to Arizona to Camp Stephen D. Little in Nogales as the main surgeon and officer of medical supplies. Later in his career he served as Surgeon General of the U. S. Army from June 1947 to May 1951.
Bliss retired in May 1951 after 40 years in the military with the rank of Major General. Although he lived in New Hampshire, he and his wife spent winters in Tucson visiting his son and daughter. He died on December 12, 1965 at age 77 while under treatment for a serious chest cold at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson.
On July 28, 1967, a new 110-bed hospital complex was built at Fort Huachuca and dedicated as the Raymond W. Bliss Army Hospital.
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