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Celebrating the life of

Dr. Harvey "Happy Jack" Murphy

Passed away on December 15, 2023

Dr. Harvey


Harvey “Happy Jack” Murphy

March 27, 1937-December 15, 2023


            Savannah surgeon Harvey “Jack” Murphy, who passed into eternity on December 15, 2023 from metastatic pancreatic cancer, lived a remarkable, full, and complete life. 

Jack was born on March 27, 1937 in his family’s mountain cabin in Pendergrass, Jackson County, Georgia.  The oldest child of Groze Murphy and Fannie Lou Ellis Murphy, brother to Jon, Jo and Chipper Murphy, Jack lived in Jackson County until he was six years old, when the family moved to rural Bibb County, Georgia, near Macon.

            Fannie Lou and Groze Murphy were hard-working folks who woke up before sunrise and worked until sunset.  They lived in a simple place and dreamt simple dreams. Inexplicably, Jack dared to dream big. By age 7, he knew he wanted to be a doctor. By 16, he knew he wanted to be a surgeon.

            The rest is history.

            A standout football player at Macon’s Sidney Lanier High School, playing alongside future University of Georgia legend Theron Sapp, Jack was also the battalion commander of the school’s ROTC unit. He continued as a leader in the Army ROTC at Macon’s Mercer University, where he was also a member of the SAE fraternity.  It was at Mercer that Jack met the love of his life, Peggy Jewel Wommack, a fellow Maconite.  Peggy and Jack both graduated from Mercer with Honors in 1959. They married at Macon’s Tattnall Square Baptist Church on December 29, 1959, honeymooning in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Jack and Peggy lived in Augusta while Jack attended Medical School at the Medical College of Georgia. Peggy taught high school English and French before giving birth to Mark, their first child, in 1962. After medical school graduation in 1963, they moved back to Macon as Jack began his surgical residency at the Macon Hospital.  Jennifer, the couple’s only daughter, was born in 1964; Andy, their youngest son, was born in Macon in 1967.

            Jack served as Chief Resident in Surgery at the Macon Hospital before joining the Army as a surgeon in 1968. He was stationed at Tuttle Hospital at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia during the Vietnam War, reaching the rank of Major and eventually becoming Chief of Surgery there.  Jack fell in love with Savannah during his time in the Army, and after he left the service, he decided to stay, joining the practice of Dr. Robert Gottschalk and Dr. Dickie Timms at Number 1 Medical Arts.  He worked with Drs. Gottschalk and Timms for a year before becoming a solo private practice surgeon. Serving on the staffs of Candler Hospital, St. Joseph’s and Memorial Medical Center, Jack took great pride in being a leader in each of these hospitals.  He also became a leader in the Savannah community.

            At Memorial, Jack became involved in surgical education, helping to train such notable Savannah physicians as Drs. Dorsey Flanders, Jim Jackson, Jim Scott, Carl Boyd, Charles Usher and Alan Lord, among others.  However, no professional relationship was more gratifying than the one he had with Dr. Paula DeNitto, who started out at age 18 as a receptionist in Jack’s office before being inspired to return to school and become a doctor.  More than a medical protégé, Paula became Jack’s surrogate daughter.  They have remained close ever since.

            Jack’s faith was very important to him. A deacon in Savannah’s First Baptist Church, Jack and Peggy also sponsored a Bible study in their home for years. The Sunday school class they attended at First Baptist is called the “Peggy Murphy Class” to this day.  Without any recognition or compensation, Jack also provided medical care to the nuns cloistered at Savannah’s Carmelite Monastery, making many “house calls” there over the years.

            With a lifelong interest in athletics, Jack served as the first team physician for the varsity football teams of both Savannah Christian Preparatory School and Calvary Baptist Day School, a role he held for decades. He also did free annual physical exams for the Liberty City Vikings Pee Wee football team and provided free medical care to the residents at Bethesda Home for Boys. Jack felt that young people involved in sports were less likely to get involved with drugs or other maladaptive behaviors, so he let it be known that he would always care for youth who played sports without expecting compensation.

            The pinnacle of Jack’s medical career centered around his involvement with St. Joseph’s and Candler Hospitals. Having served as both Chairman of the Department of Surgery and Chief of Staff of both hospitals, he was an instrumental figure in their merger into what is now known as the St. Joseph’s-Candler Health System.  He was the Chairman of the St. Joseph’s/Candler Central Credentials Committee and served on the Health System’s Board of Directors for many years.  The nurses called him “Happy Jack” because he was always upbeat, whistling and laughing, and never knew a stranger. He made certain that all members of the ancillary medical staff, from the Head OR nurse down to the medical transporter, always felt like they were part of a larger team dedicated to excellent patient care. It was this sort of leadership that led the Georgia Medical Society to present Jack with a “Healthcare Heroes” Award in 2006.

            A dry recitation of facts can tell one a few things about a person’s accomplishments, but what truly defined Jack Murphy’s life was the man he ultimately became and perhaps more importantly, how he became that man.

            Jack would be the first person to tell you he was not perfect. Coming from a background in which he had no right or expectation of anything spectacular, he had no playbook for success and no blueprint for personal happiness.   What he did have was a razor-sharp intellect, an incredible drive to succeed, and a dedication to doing things the right way.

            Jack’s marriage to Peggy cemented the most important relationship in his life. Peggy was his soulmate and his inspiration, and her unconditional love completed Jack, driving him to be a better man and making him whole.  Their love for one another transformed Jack Murphy into the person he ultimately became. 

            From Jack and Peggy’s love for one another comes the sort of personal vignette that Jack Murphy’s family members will always remember: Jack, still in his surgical scrubs, hunched over the oak kitchen table at 201 Lee Boulevard, exhausted and smelling of soap and Old Spice as he snarfed down a re-heated plate of fried chicken and greens. Peggy, coming up behind him, wrapping her arms around his neck and kissing the top of his balding head. 

            Peggy taught her children about compassion and unconditional love. From Jack, they learned about duty, honor, and responsibility. The two of them gave everything they had to their children, and that is a debt that can never be repaid.

            Life is precious, messy, and raggedly impermanent. There are no guarantees.  Peggy’s brilliant life was snuffed out suddenly and tragically at age 50. Her devastating loss made the entire Murphy family understand how incredibly precious life is and how important it is to love the people you love with all your heart, every single day.

            Jack carried a quote from Robert Louis Stevenson in his wallet which exemplified what has driven him throughout his entire professional career:

            “If a man loves the labour of his trade, apart from any question of success or fame, the gods have called him.”

            Jack was predeceased by his parents, Groze and Fannie Lou Murphy, as well as his wife Peggy, his brother Jon, sister-in-law Phyllis, his brother Chipper, and his sister-in-law and brother-in-law Joanne and C.E. “Red” McDaniel. He is survived by his children Mark Murphy (Daphne), Jennifer McCollum (Mitchell), his son Andy, his grandchildren Christopher Murphy (Abby), Josh Murphy (Katie), Katherine Murphy, Alexandra Murphy and Jackson Murphy, his great-granddaughter Violet Murphy, his sister Jo Anne Murphy, sister-in-law Cynthia, and several nieces and nephews.

            Jack’s children would like to offer their sincere thanks to Dr. Dana Kumjian and to the nursing staffs of both St. Joseph’s Hospital and Hospice Savannah. Your excellent care of our father will never be forgotten.

            In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations in Dr. Murphy’s honor be sent to either the St. Joseph’s-Candler Foundation or to Hospice Savannah.












Dr Murphy performed several procedures on me. While I had setbacks and problems he was always encouraging and comforting letting me know he would get it figured out and I would be ok. Dr Murphy's positive attitude and ability to put me at ease were extremely comforting. It always ended up a success and I continued my life. Dr Murphy was the epitome of what a great, caring and all around Physician should be Thank you "Happy Jack"!!!

- David Mims, Savannah , GA

Happy Jack was a wonderful man and surgeon! Everyone wanted to work with him because he was a positive person in this mean world… he will be missed but remembered!

- Deborah Hattrich, Savannah, GA

Such a wonderful man. Our relationship began while he was at Tuttle and operated on a family member. May his Soul Rest In Peace and may your memories help sustain you now and in the difficult days ahead.

- Susan Nyberg, Savannah, GA

We were sorry to learn of the death of Mark’s Dad. Our deepest sympathies. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

- Rex and Donna Johnson, Savannah, Ga

Dear Mark and Family, I send my sympathy over the loss of your dad. Jack was a one-of-a-kind and had a unique way of always brightening your day when you saw him. Your dad was always one of the Savannah physicians I admired most. He was an “old school doctor”, a highly-skilled surgeon, and had that innate ability to be approachable and comforting to his patients. I know I will never forget Jack, nor will those who worked with him and were cared for by him. He was truly a physician’s physician. Praying for his eternal rest and salvation, David Carson

- J. David Carson, M.D., Savannah, Georgia

Dear Mark: I remember your dad as an excellent surgeon and definitely a positive force, always with a great smile and whistling! I met you and Anne Marie while working in P.R. (St. Joe's). It was a pleasure. May your memories of him live on forever. Respectfully, Bonnie J. Delvers

- Delvers, Savannah, GA

I can hear him now,whistling in the halls of Candler.RIP Dr Murphy

- Sara Mahany, Savannah, Ga

Deepest sympathy to the family of Dr.Murphy.I was lucky to work with him in the Operating Room at St.Josephs for many years. He was an excellent surgeon. He was kind and thoughtful to patients and staff. He talked about Peggy and told stories about her and his family so often . May he rest in peace with


A candle has been lit!

They didn't call him "Happy Jack" for nothing! In my all-too-brief encounters with Dr. Murphy it was always a delight--you always felt better after speaking with him. He was so delightful to be around and so helpful. Back in my television days I did a feature on knee injuries and Dr. Murphy ran some interference for me to get me in the operating room to video a certain knee operation that, at first, the surgeon did not want me in there. I don't know what he did or said to his colleague but the next thing I knew a call came in to me when and where to be and it was all taken care of. It was an honor and pleasure to know him and, as the late-great Paul Harvey used to say: "We've lost more than we can afford." Godspeed, Bill

- Bill Edwards, Savannah, Ga

So sorry for your loss happy Jack was the best. Dr.Happy Jack got lot of my family's gallbladder that what he told me to put them thur college.

- Pamela Betz ryals, Rincon, Ga

My deepest sympathy for your family.

- Beth Curtsinger, Savannah, GA

I was a medical device representative for many years and called on Dr Murphy as a customer in my work. What a pleasure it was to work with him. His happy and positive demeanor would encourage and uplift any OR room and the team working with him, even in the most stressful surgical procedures. RIP Happy Jack!

- Brian Kennedy, Savannah , GA

A candle has been lit!

I met Jack once while visiting Savannah and had much respect for his work and family. Andy has shared several stories about Jack's achievements and his overcoming spirit. His rich life will live on through his posterity - rest in Peace Jack Murphy!

- Buddy Curry, Buford, Georgia

My mother was a nurse at Hunter during his time there. She always spoke so fondly of him and the love he had for his family. She remembered how devastated he was when he lost the love of his life. So when I had a medical issue she suggested I go see him. I was so glad I did. He was such a compassionate doctor. I really hated when he decided to retire. Our deepest sympathy to his family may he rest in peace.

- Barbara Bacon/ Norma Hiers, Savannah , Ga

I will always remember him as a giant among men. He had the biggest heart and was a joy to work with. Just thinking about him makes us all smile. RIP Dr Murphy.

- Karen McBride, Savannah, GA

I worked with Dr. Murphy at Candler in the 1980's. He was perfectly delightful and a true gentleman. When you were in his OR it was going to be a good day at work. He was caring and astute, and with great sense of humor he entertained us too. Rest in peace Dr. Murphy. God bless your family.

- Martha Kral, Savannah, GA

Through high school, college (fraternity brothers) and medical school Jack was a one of my dearest friends. Although our contacts were rare in recent years his friendship was one of the most important in my life. I love you Jack.

- Spencer King, Atlanta, GA

A candle has been lit!

Our deepest condolences for the transition of your dear, dear father, grandfather. He was a brilliant star of Love and Kindness to all. Prayer for the Family is God's Peace, Strength and Comfort doing this journey in our live. Thomas & Lois A. Shields Jr.

- Lois A. Shields, Garden City, GA

Dr Mark Murphy

- Alton & Faye Slater , Metter, Ga

Dr Mark Murphy

- Alton & Faye Slater , Metter, Ga

Dr Mark Murphy , we are so sorry to hear about your father. He was a great person and wonderful Dr. May God be with you and your family at this time.

- Alton & V. Faye aSlater, Metter, Ga

Services under the direction of:

Fox & Weeks Funeral Directors, Hodgson Chapel

  • A private burial will be held