Obituary for Dr. S. J. Pickens

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Dr. S. J. Pickens of 2301 Donner Ave in Ponca City passed away unexpectadly of natural causes on October 21, 2017. Dr. Pickens was born in Philadelphia, PA on Sunday, June 11, 1944 to Mildred Lurene Shields and Sidney James Toombs Sr. Dr. Pickens grew up on the 2100 block of Diamond Street and the 2400 block of 29th Street in Philadelphia. Dr. Pickens and her big brother Sidney spent summers with their grandparents in Wilberforce, Ohio where his grandfather Norwood Shields was a professor of agriculture at Central State College. Dr. Pickens' mother Mildred was born in 1907 in Langston, Oklahoma where her grandfather was a professor of agriculture at Langston College. Her grandfather Norwood Shields later moved from Langston to Wilberforce, Ohio where he was a professor of agriculture at Central State College. Her grandfather who she loved dearly was one of the first black men to graduated with an advanced degree from Cornell University in 1900. Dr. Pickens and her brother Sidney loved to spend summers with their grandparents in Wilberforce.


Dr. Pickens graduated from Germantown High School in Philadelphia and received her bachelor's degree from Temple University in 1965. One of the proudest events of her life occurred in 1963 when Dr. Pickens travelled to Selma, Alabama with freedom riders to help register black residents to vote and to integrate lunch counters. Dr. Pickens marched with King in Alabama and attended Dr. King's March on Washington. Forty-five years after the March on Washington Dr. Pickens attended Barack Obama's inauguration at the same place with her husband in 2009.

In 1979 entered Medical School at the University of Maryland and was the oldest member of her graduating class. She earned both her M.Ed. and M.D. degrees from the University of Maryland. While in residency at the University of Maryland's Institute of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, she was selected as a Falk Fellow and is the recipient of the Brody Award.


Dr. Pickens married Hugh Pickens on December 24, 1984 recently celebrating 32 years of marriage.

Dr. Pickens spent 10 years working in the Maryland State Health System working as Clinical Director at Spring Grove Hospital and at Spring Grove Hospital.

In 1989 Dr. Pickens was president of Pickens Comprehensive Health Services, a health care company serving the inmate population of the Baltimore City Jail.

Dr. Pickens spent the last ten years of her professional career as Vice President of physician services at Green Spring Health Services, Inc., where she supervised fifty physicians and nurses.

Dr. Pickens was a board member of Friends Psychiatric Research Associates; is the past president of the Black Psychiatrists of America, Maryland Chapter, past president of Maryland Black Faculty and Staff, an examiner for the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, and a member of the American Psychiatric Association and Southern Psychiatric Association. Dr. Pickens received her B.S. degree from Temple University. She earned both her M.Ed. and M.D. degrees from the University of Maryland. While in residency at the University of Maryland's Institute of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, she was selected as a Falk Fellow and is the recipient of the Brody Award. Dr. Pickens was inducted into the American College of Psychiatry in 1996, one of only three physicians in the state of Oklahoma who have been so honored.

In 1999 Dr. Pickens retired and in 2005 decided to make her new home in Ponca City, her husband's home town. Dr. Pickens was active as a docent at Marland Mansion, served on the board of directors of Ponca Playhouse, and with her husband sponsored and produced the annual "Oklahoma Pride" series at Ponca Playhouse producing "The Broken Statue" and "Lydie Marland in the Afterlife." Dr. Pickens was also active in newcomers.

Dr. Pickens was one-quarter Cherokee and after moving to Oklahoma she took up collecting Native American jewelry and artwork.


Survivors include her husband Hugh Pickens, her stepdaughter Carolina Pickens Jachnke, her stepson Daniel Pickens, and step-grandchildren Keanu Jachnke Pickens,

Dr. Pickens was preceded in death by her mother Mildred Lurene Shields, father Sidney James Toombs, and older brother Sidney James Toomb II.

Memorial Service

A memorial service will be held at 10 am Saturday, November 25, at Ponca Playhouse at 301 S. 1st St. in Ponca City. Donations may be made in her name to Ponca Playhouse, Box 1414, Ponca City, OK 74602.


Dr. Pickens always said that in her family there were three rules.

1. Never complain about anything.


3. Play the hand you are dealt - but play the hell out of it.

Before she went to Alabama in 1963, where she was assaulted desegregating lunch counters, her father made her memorize Invictus by William Ernest Henley which she could recite from memory for the rest of her life:

Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears Looms but the Horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.