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"Goat-gland" doctor dies in San Antonio

May
26
1942

On this day in 1942, John Romulus Brinkley, controversial medical charlatan, died in San Antonio. Although Brinkley never earned a diploma he was licensed by the state of Arkansas and set up a medical practice in Milford, Kansas. In 1918 he began performing his controversial "goat gland operation," designed to restore male virility and fertility by the implantation of goat glands. "Doc" Brinkley became extremely wealthy. In 1923 he constructed the first radio station in Kansas, KFKB, and in 1928 was attacked for diagnosing illnesses and prescribing medicines over the radio. Consequently, in 1930 he lost both his medical and broadcasting licenses. He responded by entering the governor's race, hoping to appoint new members to the medical board. He came extremely close to winning. In 1931 he received authority from Mexican officials to build a powerful transmitter at Villa Acuña, Mexico, across the river from Del Rio, Texas. Two years later he moved his entire medical staff and facilities to the Roswell Hotel in Del Rio. He used his station, XER, to entice his listeners to visit his clinic or buy an array of expensive gimmicks. Estimates are that he took in $12 million between 1933 and 1938. During this period his conspicuous display of wealth--a lavish mansion, expensive cars, planes, yachts, and diamonds--was second to none. In 1938 he moved his medical activities to Little Rock, Arkansas, but maintained his residence in Texas. About that time he lost a libel suit, fought numerous malpractice suits, and battled the Internal Revenue Service over back taxes. In 1941 he was forced to file for bankruptcy.

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