William Lofton Baugh, pioneer Lubbock physician, son of Washington Morgan Baugh and Cazadie (Burnett) Baugh, was born in Brown County, Texas, on November 3, 1880. Baugh grew up on his father’s ranch on Jim Ned Creek and attended a country school three miles from his home. He graduated from Brownwood High School in 1899 and was accepted into the Medical Department of the University of Texas (present-day University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston). He planned to begin classes in 1900, but the catastrophic damage to the island caused by the Galveston hurricane forced Baugh to wait a year before starting his medical education. He attended the University of Texas uninterrupted for four years and specialized in surgery. Following his graduation in June 1905, he assumed the practice of a Coleman County physician but had to return to medical school for an additional year in order to comply with the state’s new medical licensure requirements. While in Coleman, he gained experience as a country doctor and began making plans for his own practice farther west.
Baugh moved to Lubbock in September 1906 and rented a room at the Nicolett Hotel. He opened his first practice in the Star Drug Store on the south side of the courthouse square. In the early century, house calls were the standard for general practice especially in rural areas. Baugh rode his horse on local calls but relied on a buggy and relay system of fresh teams to reach patients living on the remote farms and ranches of the South Plains. After his practice was established, he returned to Brownwood in the summer of 1908 to marry Nellie Jett Green. They married on July 26, 1908. Their daughter Doris Maurine was born the following year, and son William Lofton Jr. was born in 1912. Nellie immersed herself in Lubbock’s civic clubs, Medical Auxiliary, and Parent Teacher Association, which she helped to organize.
As one of Lubbock County’s first physicians, Baugh made significant contributions to the establishment of the medical profession on the South Plains. He was a charter member of the Lubbock-Crosby County Medical Society and served four terms as its president (1910, 1912, 1915, and 1916). He regularly attended the annual meetings of the Texas Medical Association as a delegate, served as president of the Panhandle District Medical Society, and as vice president of the Texas Medical Association in 1930.
Lubbock’s early doctors played an important part in safeguarding public health at a time when there was little regulation or infrastructure to prevent the spread of disease, and Baugh’s influence in public health extended beyond Lubbock’s frontier period. In 1910 he was appointed Lubbock County health officer, a position he held until February 1949. Baugh served on the State Board of Health for six years as a member and four years as chair. During his long tenure as county health officer he managed outbreaks of smallpox, diphtheria, typhoid, and influenza; enforced the mandatory vaccination of school children; treated the prisoners in the Lubbock County jail; acted as the county medical examiner; and regularly testified as a medical expert on behalf of the state. For almost forty years, Baugh carried out his public health responsibilities while also maintaining a busy medical practice.
Baugh was a charter member of the board of the West Texas Hospital and served on its staff for four decades. The West Texas Hospital originated in 1920 when Dr. Charles J. Wagner dissolved his partnership with Dr. M. C. Overton following the latter’s decision to join the Lubbock Sanitarium. Wagner approached Baugh and Dr. R.J. Hall, Baugh’s practice partner, with a plan to organize the West Texas Hospital Association and raise funds to build a new modern hospital through subscriptions. Baugh was one of the largest stockholders in the venture. The West Texas Hospital and its nursing school opened in 1922 at the corner of Main and Avenue L. During the next two decades the local demand for the hospital necessitated four expansions and numerous upgrades. Baugh served as the chairman of the hospital board during the hospital’s first major expansion and reorganization in 1929. He remained an active member of the hospital’s board of directors and staff for the rest of his life.
William L. Baugh reduced the size of his practice considerably as he got older but did not retire. In April 1961 he suffered a stroke and died two months later on June 15, 1961, in Lubbock in the hospital he helped to build. At the time of his death, Baugh’s medical career stretched over fifty-six years. He was buried in the City of Lubbock Cemetery.