Physician. McCottry was born on February 3, 1921, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her parents were John McKee and Violet Miller. McCottry attended Barber Scotia Junior College at Concord, North Carolina, before enrolling at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte. She later became that school’s first alumna to earn a medical degree. After completing a biology bachelor’s degree in 1941, McCottry was accepted at the Howard University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. Dr. Charles Drew, who developed blood banks, was one of her professors and influenced her surgical skills.
McCottry graduated in 1945 and trained in several residencies, specializing in obstetrics and gynecology at New York’s Harlem Hospital, Charlotte’s Good Samaritan Hospital, and Chicago’s Providence Hospital. In 1946 McCottry began practicing medicine in her hometown and was the first black woman physician there. She received her professional license in 1950. She married Turner McDonald McCottry, a Charleston native and graduate of Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. They had two children.
Moving to Charleston in 1952, McCottry joined her husband, who established a general practice with obstetrics and gynecology services. He became chief of staff at the McClennan-Banks Memorial Hospital. The couple were Charleston’s first African American team of physicians, and she was the city’s first black woman to practice gynecology and obstetrics. Catherine McCottry became noted for her direct patient care services and was a leader in the drive to integrate hospitals in Charleston in the 1960s. She retired from practicing medicine in the early 1970s but continued her medical service in other forums. Her husband died in 1996.
Throughout her career McCottry emphasized public health education, especially for sickle-cell anemia, which affects primarily blacks. She served as chairperson for the health committee of the African American sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha. Many of her educational initiatives addressed young women. McCottry implemented prenatal-care counseling programs for pregnant teenagers. She lectured about prevention, symptoms, and treatments for the American Cancer Society. McCottry also taught young adults about hypertension and stress reduction.
McCottry received numerous awards and accolades for her volunteer and professional work. National politicians including President Bill Clinton, Senators Ernest Hollings and Strom Thurmond, and Congressman James Clyburn wrote commendation letters accompanying the Women Who Make a Difference Award. In 2000 Charleston mayor Joseph P. Riley proclaimed that May 23 was Dr. Catherine McCottry Day. McCottry also was featured in that year’s BellSouth Corporation’s African American History Calendar.