Remembering Dr. J. O. Wyatt

– L. Arthalia Cravin

J.O. Wyatt 2lcravinThe J. O. Wyatt Community Health Center, located at 1411 E. Amarillo Blvd, in Amarillo, Texas is named for Dr. James Odis Wyatt. Wyatt was born on Nov. 30, 1906 in Victoria, Texas and received his bachelor’s degree in 1926 from Samuel Houston College and his medical degree from Meharry Medical College in Nashville. His residency was in Kansas City. He then specialized in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Southern California. In 1932, he was licensed to practice medicine in Texas. Wyatt practiced medicine in San Angelo from 1932-37 and two years in Kerrville before moving to Amarillo.

Wyatt was the first black person to seek public office in Amarillo when, in 1955, he ran unsuccessfully for a place on the Amarillo school board. A few days after he announced his candidacy a cross was burned on his lawn. A few years earlier, in 1952, a home under construction for Wyatt was burned. The fire was ruled arson. No one was arrested for the crime. The house was immediately rebuilt.
After moving to Amarillo to practice medicine, Wyatt was denied privileges at St. Anthony’s and Northwest Texas hospitals because he was black, Wyatt and his wife then opened a hospital at 901 N. Hayden. Wyatt was a primary care physician who played a pivotal role in meeting the health-care needs of the black and Hispanic communities during the 1940s and 1950s. After operating the facility for 10 years, Wyatt was granted privileges at local hospitals. The Amarillo United Citizens Forum is located on property once owned by Dr. Wyatt and where he operated his hospital.

Wyatt was director of the Amarillo Community Chest and a director of the Amarillo Negro Chamber of Commerce, the Lobo Club and the Negro Elks Lodge. He was a member of the Masonic Lodge, the Knights of Pythias, the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity and served as chief commander of the John W. McKinney Consistory. Wyatt served on the committee for hospitals for the Lone Star State Medical Association, was area vice president of the National Medical Association and was listed in “Who’s Who in Colored America.” He was a member of the Methodist Church.

In 1994, Wyatt, whom many felt did not receive the respect due him during his lifetime, was honored when the Amarillo Hospital District named a comprehensive health clinic the J.O. Wyatt Sr. Community Health Center. Dr. Wyatt died June 3, 1958 in Amarillo. The J.O. Wyatt Sr. Community Health Center is a 45,000-square-foot clinic that houses a primary-care clinic, obstetrics and gynecology clinic, pharmacy, laboratory, X-ray facility and ambulance station.

Copyright 2013 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

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