Bowles, John Dudley (1905–1992)

By: Robert J. Duncan

Type: Biography

Published: January 23, 2013

Updated: September 17, 2016

John Dudley Bowles, African-American Houston physician, educator, and college dean, son of John Willie Bowles and Mary M. (Dudley) Bowles, was born in Victoria, Texas, on November 16, 1905. He grew up in Victoria. He had five sisters.

Bowles attended Harvard University and the University of Colorado. In 1927 he completed his bachelor’s degree at Fisk University. He earned an M.A. degree in sociology at the University of Kansas in 1933. His thesis was entitled “A Comprehensive Analysis of 100 Negro Offenders and 100 White Offenders Brought before the Court of Harris County, State of Texas.”

Bowles then began a career as an educator in Houston. He joined and became an active member of the Colored Teachers State Association of Texas. In the mid-1930s he was a teacher at Harper Junior High School in Houston. Bowles was a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. He was appointed representative for the Ninth District of the fraternity (comprising Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas) when that district was established in May 1937 at a meeting in Dallas. From 1938 to 1942 Bowles was dean of Houston College for Negroes, now known as Texas Southern University.

In May 1943 Bowles joined the United States Army, and he was sent to Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. While in medical school, Bowles continued his membership in the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. In 1945 he graduated first in his class from the medical school. Bowles also made a higher score than every other student in the United States on his board exam for pediatric medicine. He was licensed to practice medicine in forty-seven of the forty-eight U.S. states and in South America, as well. Bowles was released from the army in December 1945. He then served his internship at Harlem Hospital in New York City.

Bowles later returned to Houston to open a general practitioner medical practice. He served as physician for Texas Southern University, and he worked as physician-in-chief for Harris County Hospital’s Settegast Health Clinic (until he retired decades later). He was a member of the American Medical Association. In 1955 Bowles was appointed to a biracial committee whose purpose was to plan a gradual and orderly transition for racially integrating the Houston public schools. He was a member of the Democratic Party and a Catholic.

At some point, Bowles changed his name (from Haydee, Jaydee, or J.D.) to John Dudley Bowles. He married Ouida Chevalier in 1955. The couple had three children: John D. Bowles II, Erika Bowles, and Tonya Bowles. His favorite hobby was fishing.

John Dudley Bowles died in Houston on November 14, 1992. His funeral was held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Houston. He was buried at Paradise North Cemetery in Houston.

Like John Bowles, Rev. Ben Noble of Muskogee, Oklahoma, was born in Victoria, Texas. In an oral history interview in 2009, Noble recalled a Victoria school homecoming visit by Dr. Bowles that greatly inspired him:
I’ll tell you one impressive thing, when I was in about fourth grade they had the
commencement. Then they would have the baccalaureate sermon at one church,
they’d have graduation at another church, the Baptist church, the Methodist
church. And one year at the graduation, they had “the man.” He was Dr. Bowles
from Houston College for Negroes. He had this cap and hood. I didn’t know
what that hood was, but it was so pretty and attractive. I said, “I want to wear
that, I want one of those.”…Years passed after I finished high school, finished
college and was teaching. They invited me back to be the baccalaureate speaker.
…He motivated me. And I visited him at his office….I told him how seeing
him and hearing him had motivated me to go [to college].

John Dudley Bowles, M.D., Obituary from McCoy & Harrison Funeral Home, Houston, Texas, November 1992. Mrs. John Dudley Bowles (Ouida C. Bowles), Telephone interview by author, April 18, 2012. “Gazetteer of Texas Physicians: B” (1905) [email protected] Texas Medical Center, Texas Medical History Documents, Gazetteer of Texas Physicians (19th and 20 century), Paper 7 (, accessed April 22, 2012. Willie Hinchen, The Mighty 9th District History Book, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., 2007 [available online] (, accessed April 22, 2012. Journal of the American Medical Association, 272 (September 14, 1994). William Henry Kellar, Make Haste Slowly: Moderates, Conservatives, and School Desegregation in Houston (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1999). Juliana Nykolaiszyn, Interviewer, “Oral History Interview with Ben Noble,” Oklahoma Oral History Research Program, Edmon Low Library, Oklahoma State University, 2009 (, accessed April 22, 2012. The Texas Standard, Vol. 8 (September 1934); Vol. 10 (April 1937); Vol. 12 (November 1938).   

  • Education
  • Educators
  • Health and Medicine
  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • Peoples
  • African Americans
Time Periods:
  • Great Depression
  • Texas Post World War II
  • Progressive Era
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • World War II
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas
  • Southeast Texas
  • Gulf Coast Region
  • Victoria

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Robert J. Duncan, “Bowles, John Dudley,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 02, 2022,

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January 23, 2013
September 17, 2016

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