For many of his patients, Dr. Thomas E. Motley Sr., the first African-American Internal Medicine physician to serve in Memphis, also was their "friend." (Courtesy photo)

Dr. Thomas E. Motley Sr., the first African-American Internal Medicine physician to serve in Memphis, died Jan. 11 at Methodist University Hospital. 

The 83-year-old Dr. Motley was honored by the Memphis City Council when he retired in October 2021.

Former Memphis City Councilwoman Jamita Swearengen posted on social media:

“Dr. Thomas Motley Sr. will truly be missed. It was heartwarming to give him his flowers while he lived.”

Former patients and their families flooded social media platforms with expressions of sympathy and praise for “his caring and compassionate manner,” which endeared him to many.

During his illustrious career of nearly half a century, Dr. Motley served in a number of leadership posts in medicine, including medical director for Cardiac Rehabilitation and the Department of Preventive Medicine and Methodist Healthcare Systems; Chief of Staff for Methodist Extended Care Hospital, and founding partner of the Eastmoreland Internal Medicine Group. 

Dr. Motley also served as a consulting physician for St Francis and Baptist Memorial Hospitals.

He was born in Whiteville, Tennessee on May 15, 1939 to Robert and Elma Coleen Motley, owners of Motley and Rivers Funeral Home.

He graduated high school at the Palmer Memorial Institute in Sedalia, N.C. He earned a B.S. degree from Howard University in Washington, DC, and continued at Howard University College of Medicine for his medical degree. 

After serving in the U.S. Navy, Dr. Motley opened his practice in Memphis, making his way into local medical history. Over the course of his career, he remained a source of pride for many seniors, who called him their doctor and a friend.

Dr. Motley contributed to numerous medical research studies as a clinical science principal investigator. He was also an active member of numerous scientific and medical organizations, including the National Medical Association, American Medical Association, American College of Physicians, American Heart Association, Association of Black Cardiologists, Bluff City Medical Society, and the Memphis and Shelby County Medical Society.

A devout and valued member of  Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Dr. Motley also belonged to multiple community organizations, including Omega Psi Phi, Inc., and the Memphis Chapter of Delta Boule. 

Dr. Motley was a devoted family man and was married to Sharon Motley at the time of his death. He and his late wife, Comora C. Motley, were the parents of the late Thomas E. Motley Jr. M.D. and Todd S. Motley, MD. 

He was a proud grandfather of three and a stepfather of one son. 

The funeral service is set for Thursday (Jan. 26) at 11 a.m. at Church of the Holy Communion, 4645 Walnut Grove Road. Interment will follow at 2:30 p.m. in the West Tennessee Veterans Cemetery.

 In lieu of flowers, the Motley family requests that donations be sent to the Emanuel Center, 604 St. Paul Ave.; Memphis TN 38126.

R.S. Lewis & Sons Funeral Home, 2944 Walnut Grove Road, has charge.