1964 grad offers key lessons

By Phil Major
Posted 5/23/24

From tossing watermelons and hay bales as a young teen in Mineola, Dr. James Moody went on to help establish a world-class hospital, trauma center, brain and spine institute and air ambulance service …

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1964 grad offers key lessons


From tossing watermelons and hay bales as a young teen in Mineola, Dr. James Moody went on to help establish a world-class hospital, trauma center, brain and spine institute and air ambulance service in Dallas.

He wrote a book about his life which was published last year.

And now Mineola High School graduates have a chance to learn some of his life lessons from one of their own after they were gifted a copy of “On Call” following his presentation to the class last Thursday.

He and Kathy Peel, ghostwriter for Moody’s book, outlined his five important life lessons interwoven with tales of growing up in Mineola.

Moody graduated MHS in 1964, attended Tyler Junior College and completed his undergrad degree at the University of Texas at Austin, enrolled in the UT medical branch in Galveston and then furthered his studies to become a neurosurgeon.

And he did all that by working hard and keeping up his grades so that scholarships could fund the education his parents could not afford.

Despite having choices to practice at more prestigious hospitals, Moody chose Methodist Hospital in South Dallas, which at the time was not the most desirable of locations, with poor, aging facilities in an impoverished area.

He said he wanted to help people who were underserved.

Moody and Peel illustrated each of his prescriptions for life, beginning with the first, “Dream big and work hard.”

He described his upbringing, learning how to tend the large family vegetable garden at age six, and having the embarrassment of a hand-me-down girl’s bicycle.

He couldn’t afford tickets to the movies at the Select Theater, so he worked a deal to hand out flyers in exchange for admission and some candy.

He worked at a Texaco managed by his brother in the days when cars were filled up, with oil and tires checked and windows washed. He also cleaned the restrooms.

He learned from a counselor that he could obtain scholarships through good grades, so made sure he knew at the beginning of each semester at TJC what it would take to get an ”A” in each class.

During college, he worked at more service stations during the summers and picked up trash for the highway department for $1 an hour.

Rule 2. Don’t let setbacks set you back.

Peel goaded Moody that some of his setbacks were self-inflicted, such as missing out on his first opportunity to be inducted into the National Honor Society.

“It’s called ‘attitude’,” Moody said of his relationship with some teachers. The last straw was when he threw a desk out a school room window.

“How did that work out?” asked Peel. “Not well,” replied Moody.

He did eventually earn NHS membership.

Another setback came when he dislocated a shoulder in football, which kept him from being able to write until it healed. It resulted in being unable to take a physics quiz, and he dropped the course – one expected for a person pursuing the medical field.

The third rule, “Gain wisdom and continue learning.”

His years as a physician showed Moody first-hand the results of some bad decision-making. They can put you in the emergency room – or worse.

Among his warnings: don’t dive into a lake without knowing the depth of the water, don’t drink and drive or ride with a drunken driver, stay away from motorcycles, and don’t stand too close to a person teeing off in golf.

The fourth message, “Value every person.”

Moody recounted how every patient at Dallas Methodist would be treated with respect and dignity, regardless of their circumstances.

He recalled one particularly bad day when 22 patients had to be treated for gunshot wounds. In some cases, the victims would be driven to the emergency entrance and dumped on the sidewalk.

“My job was not to judge or lecture, it was to show compassion and listen,” he said.

And finally, “Trust in God and his promises.”

Moody said he attended First Baptist Church in Mineola, where he first learned that lesson.

He answered the question whether one could do life without God’s help, “No way.”

In addition to having the brain and spine institute named for him, Moody also led the effort to bring medical helicopters to the region, to help speed medical treatment for critical patients.

And though he is retired from practicing, he and wife Patty still give back to the community, leading a divorce counseling program in his church.

Moody stayed around to sign books for seniors and visit with classmates who had come to hear his program.