Some faraway relatives of former Chattanooga Mayor T.C. Thompson are incensed about a rebranding of Erlanger Health System's pediatric hospital that removes Thompson's name from marketing materials.
Emily Iland, of Saugus, Calif., one of Thompson's 13 grandchildren, said she didn't know any of his children or grandchildren had been consulted about the change, despite Erlanger officials' statements that descendants were in agreement about the rebranding.
"It was not a pleasant surprise," said Iland, who said she read about the change in a Chattanooga Times Free Press story online Thursday. "I think they should say they made a business decision and marketing decision, but not say our family was consulted or happy about it."
But Erlanger officials said they tried to reach as many of Thompson's descendants as they could find, and they did meet with a few local descendants, including two of his grandchildren, Liz Norris and Mary Curtis. Those family members were comfortable with the change, said spokeswoman Pat Charles.
Norris, a Chattanooga resident, expressed concern to hospital officials last year when she first heard rumors of the change. She declined to comment Thursday.
The move does not change T.C. Thompson Children's Hospital's "official name," and signs on the hospital have not been altered, hospital leaders said.
But new marketing materials will describe the hospital as "Children's Hospital at Erlanger."
The change is intended to emphasize the hospital's role as the region's only facility dedicated to pediatrics, Dr. Alan Kohrt, senior vice president for children's services, said this week.
News reports often refer to the hospital simply as T.C. Thompson, and its specialty gets "lost in translation," according to a recent blog post on Erlanger's website.
Iland said Thompson has dozens of descendants across the country, including a daughter who lives in Gainesville, Fla.
She said Thompson had four sons from his first marriage and that her mother, the late Catherine Thompson Doyle, was one of four children from his second marriage.
Doyle lived in Chicago and died last fall at age 92, "proud to the end of her father and his contribution to the children of Chattanooga," Iland said.
Doyle was not contacted about the name change last year, Iland said.
Hospital officials said Erlanger intends to continue to honor Thompson. The hospital has asked that a Thompson family member serve on the children's hospital's foundation board and made plans for a chair of excellence in Thompson's name, hospital officials said.
A bust of Thompson has been placed in a prominent position in the pediatric emergency room waiting area, and hospital leaders are working on creating a history wall about his life, Kohrt said.