Dr. Henry J. “Jack” Proctor practiced dentistry full-time for about 50 years and provided dental services free to impoverished people in other nations such as Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Mexico through a series of mission trips.
Since retiring from his full-time Statesboro practice, he continued to provide dental care to local people in need as a volunteer with the charitable Hearts and Hands Clinic. Monday, the Rotary Club of Downtown Statesboro and the Rotary Club of Statesboro jointly honored Proctor with their 2021 Citizen of the Year award.
“It’s one of those times you get caught off-guard and you don’t know what to say. …,” said Proctor, bracing himself with his cane to face the crowd of well-wishers as the ovation subsided. “I can say one thing: I feel like I’m the luckiest man in the world to have been born in Bulloch County, raised in Bulloch County and spent most of my life in Bulloch County with the exception of the military and school.
“But you don’t realize what you’ve got here until you go somewhere else. …,” he continued.
Welcoming members and guests, Downtown Statesboro Rotary Club President Wade Elliott had noted that this was the 51st time an annual award was presented to a Bulloch County resident exemplifying the Rotary Club motto.
“Even though we’re two different clubs, we are unified,” Elliott said. “We are unified in ‘Service Above Self,’ and we’re also unified in making a positive impact in our community, and that’s what today is about. It’s about impact.”
Statesboro Rotary Club President Lori Durden introduced special guests, among them Rotary District Governor Steve Barnes of Valdosta and the several former recipients who attended.
Hearts & Hands
Dr. James A. “Jimmy” High, likewise a “retired” local orthodontist who was the Rotary Clubs’ Citizen of the Year honoree in 2017, presented the 2021 award. He followed the tradition of describing details of the new recipient’s life, as if offering hints, before finally announcing his name.
But people who know both Proctor and High might have guessed this one fairly early. Their wives, Beverly Proctor and Pat High, had been announced as guests at the start of the Rotary luncheon at Forest Heights Country Club.
Dr. High and Dr. Proctor have served together as the Hearts & Hands dental directors, and they have both pursued water-based recreational activities over the years with family and friends. When High got the award four years ago he was still water skiing, at 70.
Monday, he noted that Proctor, whom he hadn’t identified by name at that point, is an enthusiast for fishing, crabbing and shrimping, and also took his family on water skiing trips in past years.
He’s musical, too
High also noted that the 2021 recipient sings. Proctor, who was born in Brooklet to parents John C. and Jessie Proctor, started singing when his mother wanted a soloist to accompany her when she played piano at church.
After graduating from Southeast Bulloch High School, Proctor first went to “Emory at Oxford,” Emory University’s two-year college at Oxford, Georgia, and then on to Emory University in Atlanta for his bachelor’s degree. He remained to complete his doctorate at the Emory University School of Dentistry.
Proctor began his military service as an ensign in the Naval Reserve before serving as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Dental Corps and as a dental officer at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina.
He then joined another dentist in a practice here for about six years before establishing his own office.
He sang as a member of the traveling Emory Glee Club in his college days, High noted. In more recent years, Proctor sings in the choir at Statesboro’s First Baptist Church. He has also served FBC as a deacon and trustee and in other leadership roles related to stewardship, Sunday School and Scouting programs.
Proctor once served on, and chaired, the Bulloch County Board of Education.
A charter member of the Rotary Club of Downtown Statesboro, he served as its 2000-2001 president. He was also active in the Statesboro Jaycees. He is or has been a member of the Ogeechee Choral Society, the Statesboro Quarterback Club, the Sigma Chi fraternity and the Bulloch County Historical Society.
“This gentleman has a heart for missions,” High said, noting Proctor’s mission trips to Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Mexico and along the Amazon River on a boat.
Beverly Proctor would accompany her husband on those trips. She would clean the dental instruments, and another volunteer would hold a flashlight while her husband treated patients, she said.
While High was completing the spoken biography, Jack and Beverly Proctors’ two sons and their daughter and all three of their spouses quietly entered the banquet room. They are Phillip and Susan Proctor of Augusta, Greg and Tara Proctor of Statesboro, and Lynn and Mickey Hyams of Cumming. Through them, the Proctors have 13 grandchildren.
“He knows he is blessed by his wonderful family, and they in turn are very proud of their father and grandfather,” High said. “Dr. Henry ‘Jack’ Proctor, we congratulate you on being the Rotary Citizen of the Year for 2021.”
Award plaque in hand, the recipient continued his brief remarks.
“But Beverly here needs to be the one to be recognized,” Proctor said. “I’ve drug her through the swamps of South America and the Caribbean, sleeping on the ground, to perform (volunteer dentistry) for people that don’t have any other chance to get dental services. …
“It’s been a wonderful time in my life,” he said. “I’ve lived 82 years now, and I couldn’t have made it without Beverly.”
Their 60th wedding anniversary will be this August.