Reminiscing – Insights from a Syphilis Study Descendant

Lillie Tyson-Head, Chairwoman of Voices for Our Fathers Legacy Foundation, is the daughter of Freddie “Fred” Tyson. He was born October 1, 1905 and passed away on March 24, 1988.

“Daddy loved his wife, Johnnie Mae and his eight children unconditionally,” Lillie said. “He was an exceptionally hard worker, using all his acquired skills as a farmer, fireman and carpenter.”

“Don’t be afraid of hard work,” he would say. “Anything worthwhile is worth working for.”

The United States Public Health Service knew him as one of the 623 participants in the infamous Syphilis Study. However, his daughter knew “the twinkle in his eye when he smiled, the heartiness of his laughter” and “his warm, gentle touch.”

Some of his interests included fishing, gardening, and tack quilting, but none compared to the time he spent with his family, especially his grandchildren. He said, “Never get so busy with any business or pleasure that you forget your family responsibilities and obligations. Your family comes before anyone or anything. The family should stay together with love for each other.”

“His physical body is absent, but my memories of him and his words of wisdom are my daily companions,” she said. “He was always willing to share with others, particularly his extended family. Often he would give them his kind advice and words of consolation:

“Always trust in God. It doesn’t matter which church you go to but the faith and trust you have in the God that you serve.”

“Everyone is different. You can’t treat everyone the same. Respect everyone because they too are children of God.”

“When you have something to do, go ahead and do it. Don’t put it off until the last minute. You might not be able to do it tomorrow.”

“Choose your friends wisely. Everyone is not meant to be your friend.”