Brumby, William McDuffie (1866–1959)

By: Patricia L. Jakobi

Type: Biography

Published: November 1, 1994

Updated: September 20, 2016

William McDuffie Brumby, public health pioneer, was born in Delhi, Louisiana, in 1866, the son of George McDuffie Brumby, a physician. He attended public schools in Louisiana and the University of Alabama before entering Tulane University Medical School, where he obtained an M.D. in 1889. In 1896, after practicing with his father for seven years, he moved to Houston, Texas. In 1900 he was appointed city health officer for Houston, a position he held until 1907, when he became president of the State Board of Health (see TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH). During his first year in office he wrote the first statewide sanitary code. Besides his work in fighting smallpox and yellow fever epidemics, he helped found the Texas Tuberculosis Association in 1908 and was one of the first health officers in the country to test dairy herds for tuberculosis. Brumby once stated that his greatest achievement was inducing the International Congress on Tuberculosis in Washington, D.C., to persuade officials in eastern states to establish local tuberculosis-treatment facilities rather than send their residents to the supposedly healthful climate of West Texas. After leaving Austin in 1911, Brumby returned to Houston, where he practiced until his retirement in 1955. He joined the State Medical Association of Texas (now the Texas Medical Association) in 1904 and served as chairman of the sections on state medicine and public hygiene. He was a member of the Harris County Medical Society, the American College of Surgeons, the American College of Chest Physicians, and the American Medical Association. He died on November 29, 1959, at his home in Houston. He was survived by his wife, Lila (Kirby), three daughters, and a son. He was an Episcopalian.

Houston Post, November 30, 1959. Texas State Journal of Medicine, January 1960. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

  • Health and Medicine
  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • Public Health Physicians
Time Periods:
  • Progressive Era
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • Great Depression
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

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

Patricia L. Jakobi, “Brumby, William McDuffie,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 22, 2022,

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November 1, 1994
September 20, 2016

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