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Black JPS Historical Figures

Black JPS Historical Figures

Black History Month celebrates the contributions African Americans have made that impacted United States History. Celebrating Black History Month shows their role in paving the way for many African Americans today.

In Reby Cary's, A Step Up: The Way Makers, he highlights the history of blacks in Tarrant County and their impact on people of color in different professions. A few individuals highlighted in the book played various roles in the history of JPS Health Network, from medical professionals to board members. To recognize the celebration of African American contributions, JPS medical professionals share their insights on highlighting these successes.

"Black History is important because a lot of our history has been erased and rewritten, and I feel like we need to take that narrative back," Van Johnson, MD, Trauma Surgeon said. "Many people take it as needing to let the rest of the world know what black people have done, but I see it as letting each other know what we have done to encourage our youth to show there are no real barriers to going into the next level."

Dr. Donald Arthur Brooks (1922-2005)
Dr. Donald A. Brooks was an African American physician credentialed in Texas. He received the certification at John Peter Smith Hospital, which paved the way for many black physicians. Born in 1922, advancing his career was challenging with the many barriers African Americans faced during that time. Despite many adversities, Dr. Brooks was known for being the first black diplomat of the American Board of Surgery to establish a practice in Texas, which he did alongside his brother Dr. Marion J. Brooks.

Walter B. Barbour (1921-2015)
Walter B. Barbour was a civic leader who fought for the betterment of the Black community. A true trailblazer who was named the first African American woman to serve on the Fort Worth City Council. Barbour advocated for many improvements in her district, and her efforts continued after her city council term. Barbour plays a prominent role in advocating for healthcare services in the Stop Six community. She chaired the committee that helped establish the JPS Stop Six clinic, which in 2005 was renamed the Walter B. Barbour Health Center.

Erma Johnson Hadley (1942-2015)
Erma Johnson Hadley was an African American educator in Fort Worth who had many successful accomplishments as “the first.” Hadley was the first black student from her small town in Legget, Texas, to graduate from college. The first black woman to serve on the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport Board, the first black woman to serve as Vice Chancellor of then, Tarrant County Junior College, and the first black woman to serve as Chancellor of Tarrant County College. In 2006, she was chosen as Chairman of Tarrant County Hospital District’s Board of Managers, helping to lead the board into fiscal responsibility.

Allene Jones (1933-2015)
Allene Jones was a nurse and professor who began her career in Fort Worth after graduating from John Peter Smith’s School of Vocational Nursing in 1954. She was among the first two African Americans to graduate from St. Joseph’s registered nursing program, and that would not be her last influential impact on the Fort Worth community. In 1962, Jones became the first African American undergraduate student in the Texas Christian University’s School of Nursing, and the first woman of color to graduate from the University. In 1968, she would add to her list of significant impacts she made on the history of blacks in Fort Worth by becoming the first African American faculty member at TCU.

Barbara Thornton Williams
Barbara Thornton Williams was the first black chairman of the Tarrant County Hospital District in 1975. Before being chairman, she worked at Southwestern Bell Telephone, Gene McIntyre and Associates, and as a medical technologist at John Peter Smith Hospital for seven years.

Dr. Jacqulyn Diggs
Dr. Jacqulyn Diggs was an Obstetrician Gynecologist who faced many adversities because she was not only African American, but a woman. Despite her circumstances, she did not let her race or gender keep her from achieving her goals. After graduating with honors from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Texas, and passing her state licensing exam, she was accepted as an intern at John Peter Smith Hospital. Upon completing her internship, she completed training in the John Peter Smith Obstetrician Gynecologist Training Program in 1978. She was known for standing against the hospital, which discriminated against people of color.

Viola Pitts (1914-2004)
Viola Pitts served on the Tarrant County Hospital District’s Board of Managers for over ten years. She was an activist in the Fort Worth community and spent a lot of time advocating for her Lake Como community. Pitts influenced the Como Community Health Center development, later renamed Viola Pitts- Como Health Center in her honor.