A Cocke County physician overcame the Jim Crow era to serve patients of all colors.

He ended up a community hero, and even made an appearance on a popular TV show.

Dr. Dennis Branch helped his patients break racial barriers, even when society didn't want to.

"I remember that vividly," one of his patients, Carlene Robinson, said.

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He treated her with a purple cream, and it probably wasn't all that comfortable.

"I do remember him administering aid to me," Robinson said.

But a special medical remedy helped Robinson when nothing else could.

"I had a skin ailment and he mixed some kind of concoction up, and my mom painted it all over my legs and my arms," Robinson said.

Dr. Branch just had a way of making you feel better.

"My mom had taken me to Dr. Mims and other doctors," Robinson said. "I remember my father saying, 'Well, take her over there to see Dr. Branch and see what he can do.'"

The physician was born in 1886 in Raleigh, North Carolina. He graduated from medical school in 1914, and moved to Newport.

Dr. Dennis Branch
Dr. Dennis Branch helped thousands who came to him in the 1950s as patients, no matter their race.

He did much more than medicine for Cocke County.

"I think the racial barriers he broke was just the outcome of the kind of life he lived. He took care of anyone he could, and he didn't distinguish," Walters State Community College professor Dr. Marc McClure said.

McClure has been gathering information on Branch for an upcoming documentary.

"The community here in Newport, which was predominantly white, eventually they crossed that racial barrier to come to him," McClure said.

They came from far and wide — white and black and whoever — with one thing in common: a need for healing.

"He developed such a reputation as someone who could cure things that other doctors couldn't do," McClure said.

McClure credits Branch's schooling in the holistic side of medicine for his success, which is why his bag had medicine no one else's would have — Dr. Branch's own mixtures.

That reputation grew, and put him on one of the most popular shows in 1958, "This Is Your Life."

"All of Newport is glued to a TV. A lot of families didn't have TVs so they'd go over to other folks' houses," McClure said.

A whole community, transfixed on a black doctor, who turned out to be one of the most famous people to ever come from Newport.

"Someone told me that he played golf," Robinson said. "Where at the time could a black man play golf? So he had a lot of freedoms here in Cocke County, so that just tells me that he really didn't see black and white, and a lot of people came to respect that, I think."

A respect that helped unite a divided community in a way, nothing else could.

"He did it here in this small community, back in Jim Crowe era," Robinson said. "It would be amazing to see what he could do today."

Dr. Branch died in 1964.

McClure's documentary is still in production, but should be out by the end of April.