CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Dr. Mildred Mitchell-Bateman, a trailblazer in the treatment of mental illness with a career that spanned six decades, has died at the age of 89.
She died Wednesday evening in the intensive care unit of Charleston Area Medical Center's General Hospital following a brief illness, said her daughter, Donna Taylor of Charleston.
Taylor said her mother remained active until she recently developed pneumonia. She sang in the choir at Charleston's Bream Memorial Presbyterian Church, where she served on the board and in the women's group.
She also continued to serve on the board of Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Hospital in Huntington. In 1999, then-Gov. Cecil Underwood changed the name from Huntington State Hospital in honor of her accomplishments.
Throughout her life, Mitchell-Bateman maintained a busy schedule.
"She ran circles around us," Taylor said. "She was amazing. She and my dad instilled in me the importance of education and how it can improve your lifestyle and impact those around you."
Another daughter, Danielle Shanklin of North Lauderale, Fla., said her mother was a woman "with an open arms policy. No matter who came to her in need of assistance, she was ready to help with guidance."
She said her mother taught her that there are no obstacles, only steppingstones.
"She was for equality and justice for everyone," Shanklin said. "She always pushed for the underprivileged. She was sent here, I believe, as a guardian of people."
The Rev. Robert Wood, pastor of Bream Memorial, said in the church she served as "a voice of reason, hope, faith and optimism."
He relayed a story that had been passed along to him of her decision to attend an all-white church.
"A minister here had been chased out of the south in the '60s because he had tried to integrate a church," Wood said. "He took the position of welcoming African-Americans, and it cost him his position in the South. He came to Bream, not because it was cutting edge, but a place where he was well received."
Mitchell-Bateman was aware of the situation and wanted to show her support, he said.