I wonder what it is about Memphis that makes our city such a magnet for colorful characters? One of the most intriguing gentlemen in American history wasn’t born here, but he dwelled here for several years in the 1920s, met his wife here and married her at the old Peabody Hotel, and today lies buried in Forest Hill Cemetery.
His name was Dr. John R. Brinkley, and he gained fame around the world as the “Goat Gland Doctor.” He’s also the subject of an amazing book by Pope Brock called Charlatan, subtitled “America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, The Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam.”
Born in Kansas in 1888, Brinkley earned various medical degrees from quack establishments and set up practice in the little town of Milford, Kansas. One day a farmer visited him to complain about a condition that today we might call erectile disfunction. The good doctor wanted to sell him some worthless potions, but the farmer was skeptical. Looking out the window towards a nearby farmyard, he said, “Too bad I don’t have billy-goat nuts.”