Pictured above: Dr. Banov’s family recently viewed the former health director’s portrait thanks to Lowcountry Region Administrator Dennis Thompson’s efforts.
By Mary-Kathryn Craft
An important figure in DHEC’s past will have a place of honor in the Charleston County Health Department going forward.
Thanks to efforts of Lowcountry Region Administrator Dennis Thompson, a portrait of Dr. Leon Banov, who served as the Charleston County health director from 1920 to 1961, was preserved and will hang in the new Charleston County Health Department when it opens.
The Charleston County Health Department was established in May 1920 and merged with the Charleston City Health Department in 1936 under Dr. Banov’s directorship, according to the Medical University of South Carolina Documents Initiative and Collected Archives. The department ran public health programs including maternal and child health, health education, treatment clinics, environmental sanitation, food inspections, communicable and venereal disease control, and statistical record keeping.
During the 1950s, Dr. Banov was instrumental in getting funding for the health department built in downtown Charleston, and this facility was named after him. He also wrote two books during his time as health director. They are “As I Recall: The Story of the Charleston County Health Department” and “A Quarter of a Century of Public Health.”
A painting of Dr. Banov was embedded in the wall in the conference room at the old health department. Before the painting was destroyed, Dennis and his team made sure it was kept safe and have arranged for it to hang in the main conference room at the Chicora Life Center, the soon-to-be new health department in Charleston. At Dennis’s suggestion, this conference room will be named after Dr. Banov.
Dennis recently contacted Dr. Banov’s family members who live in Charleston and Washington, D.C. When they visited the area a few weeks ago, he arranged for them tour the new health department and see the portrait of Dr. Banov. One of Dr. Banov’s grandchildren viewed the portrait for the first time and was moved to tears.
A special thanks to Dennis Thompson for preserving an important piece of the agency’s history and going above and beyond to connect a family with its legacy.
Interested in more historical photos of the Charleston County Health Department? Check out MUSC’s archive here.