MS EMS Pioneer Wade Spruill Dies at 72

Wade Nelson Spruill, Jr
Wade Nelson Spruill, Jr

Wade Nelson Spruill, Jr., the founder of emergency medical services and trauma systems in Mississippi, died January 10, 2021, at Forrest General Hospital, Hattiesburg. He was 72.

Spruill retired after 30 years with Mississippi State Department of Health and in 2000 became chief executive officer for AAA Ambulance Service, Mississippi’s first and longest-standing prehospital emergency care provider, and its affiliated Southeast Mississippi Air Ambulance District and Southeast Trauma Care Region.

A natural-born storyteller and leader, he began public health work upon graduation from the University of Mississippi with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1970. After just months as an environmentalist with Leflore County Health Department, he was promoted and transferred to the central office in Jackson to develop the EMS Program. He became the state’s longest-serving EMS director as he conceptualized and authored the original EMS Plan for Mississippi.

Legislatively, Spruill authored and steered adoption of the Mississippi EMS Act of 1974, advanced life Support amendments, EMS fees amendments, the EMS Operating Fund (EMSOF), the Good Samaritan law, the trauma systems law, and the subscription ambulance services amendment. Through EMSOF, he received and administered over $15 million for local EMS improvements; similarly, through the Trauma Care Trust Fund, he received and administered the initial $8 million for trauma systems development.

Mississippi Gov. Kirk Fordice presented to him the Gubernatorial Commendation for 20 years of outstanding and innovative contributions to furthering the mission of public health in Mississippi, and for outstanding service in the field of public health he received the Outstanding Performance

Certificate on behalf of the State Board of Health. He also received the 2000 Highway Safety Champion Award from Mississippi Association of Highway Safety Leaders.

A charter member of the Mississippi EMT Association, the National Association of State EMS Directors, and the Mississippi Society of Certified Public Managers, Spruill served as president of Mississippians for Emergency Medical Services (MEMS) and of Mississippi Public Health Association.

Nationally, Spruill was on faculty for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Development of Trauma Systems curriculum; a member of the NHTSA program review of state EMS and highway safety programs, a consultant to NHTSA for emergency vehicle training programs; a member of the National Emergency Medical Services for Children Resource Alliance Board of Directors; and a consultant to the American College of Surgeons.

Spruill documented his work in EMS in his memoir, Raising The Star: Mississippi Milestones in EMS and A Few Related Stores, published in 2020. The book details his motivation for and records his five decades of EMS work, which solidly ensconced him in Mississippi health care history and affected the lives of thousands.

Just last year, in developing his website, Spruill wrote that he could now fully focus on “the love most people have for the well-being of their fellow man.” And as he approached his fiftieth year of public health service, he turned a lifetime of storytelling into a new career as writer and author of books for both children and adults.

Along with Raising The Star, Spruill confidently created the first in what he aimed to be a series of six books about their American Quarter Horse Archie, a son of Epic Titan and Dance With The King. He dedicated Archie’s Tale: Life as I Saw It to his wife Dianne, “whose love for horses may be equaled but never exceeded!” In this latest chapter, Spruill had completed the manuscript and awaited illustrations to publish the second in Archie’s series and also had begun the draft for a mystery novel he titled Camo.

Born January 21, 1948, in Greenwood to Wade Nelson Spruill and Alicia Lee Baker, Spruill is survived by his wife of 18 years, Dianne Spruill of Hattiesburg; daughter, Erin Spruill (Keith) McGee of Brandon and son, Wade N. Spruill, III – Tripp (Traci) of Brandon; and four grandchildren, Zac McGee, Paxton McGee, Cason Spruill, and Holland Spruill. Other survivors are his sister-in-law Dorothy Ann (Thomas) Prine of Laurel; an aunt, Martha Baker (A.B.) Ruth of Columbus; nieces Jackie (Max) Dyar, Lahoma Martin, Tammie Moss Diana, and Stephanie Prine Lowery; nephew, Cliff Prine; and great-nieces and -nephews Kayla Quinn, Madison Dyar, Jordan Mitchell, Kamron Mitchell, Jaylon Martin, Nicholas Diana, Peyton Prine, Cooper Prine, Shelby Lowery, and Christian Lowery.

Spruill as husband, father, and grandfather and with his wife Dianne enjoyed life as a horseman and avid hunter. They named their farm Single Shoe Stables and developed friendships with others in the horse world, “horse people.” Spruill’s favorite place ever was his hunting camp in Redhill, where he enjoyed time with his hunting buddies and family.

Growing up in the cotton capital of the Mississippi Delta, he experienced the then-normal childhood and adolescent joys of hunting, fishing, horseback riding, and listening to music — both the blues and emerging rockabilly to rock-and-roll. He became a drummer, learned to dance in a make-shift blues hall, and grew into a young baseball player of note.

Memorial services will be announced at a later time. Moore Funeral Service of Hattiesburg is in charge of arrangements.

Contributions to honor the memory of Wade Spruill may be made to Mississippi Quarter Horse Association scholarship fund: MAQHA, c/o Laura Miller, 133 Running Horse Lane, Mendenhall, MS 39114.

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