Bush, Leonard Holmes (1865–1941)

By: Charles W. Monday and Jane Clements Monday

Type: Biography

Published: July 27, 2022

Updated: July 27, 2022

Leonard Holmes Bush, physician and surgeon, practiced for forty-eight years in Huntsville, Texas, starting in 1892. He was born in Huntsville on December 23, 1865, in a home that formerly belonged to Sam Houston (see SAM HOUSTON HOUSE). His parents were John Wilson Bush, a lawyer and planter, and Sarah (Ewing) Bush, both of Virginia. Bush attended local area schools and graduated from the Sam Houston Normal Institute (later Sam Houston State University). He later enrolled at Tulane University School of Medicine and earned his medical degree in 1892. After graduation, Bush returned to Huntsville and established a medical practice. With the exception of one year in which he practiced medicine in Galveston (1899–1900), Bush maintained his Huntsville practice until his death in 1941.

Throughout his extensive career in medicine, Bush was active within the local medical community. He served on the Twelfth Judicial District Board of Medical Examiners prior to formation of the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners. He was a charter member and president of the Walker County Medical Society and a charter member of the later Walker- Madison-Trinity County Medical Society. He was also a member of the Texas Medical Association and the American Medical Association, was a member of the Huntsville Memorial Hospital’s staff, served as director of the Post Graduate Medical Assembly of South Texas, and was a fellow of the American College of Surgeons. He also served as the local surgeon for the International-Great Northern Railroad.

In 1911 Bush was appointed as a physician caring for inmates in the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville. He also served as the physician for the Goree State Farm for Women (later the Thomas Goree Unit) and the Wynne State Farm that housed disabled or elderly prisoners. Bush served for twenty-one years as chief surgeon of the Texas Prison System. In 1922, during his tenure, he was present when a mob seized a Black man accused of sexual assault. The mob was persuaded to have the man castrated as an alternative to lynching him. Bush may have been the doctor who performed the operation. In 1925 Bush was among twenty-three prison officials identified by the Texas Prison Advisory Board as responsible for poor sanitary conditions, inadequate medical treatment, and inhumane treatment of convicts at state prisons. His resignation or discharge was recommended by a joint legislative committee, but the resolution failed to pass. Bush maintained his position until 1931. In addition to his other appointments at the prison, Bush directed a staff of four physicians in charge of determining the physical condition of incoming prisoners at receiving stations in Huntsville and Sugarland. These assessments helped to determine the types of work assigned to each prisoner upon admittance to the facility.

For many years, Bush engaged in his passion for hunting. He served as president of the Huntsville Hunting Club, vice-president of the Texas Fox and Wolf Hunters Association, and was a charter member of the Huntsville chapter of Woodmen of the World.

Bush married Mary “Mamie” Walker Read of Texarkana, Texas, on December 23, 1897, in Bowie, Texas. The couple had three children: Katherine Helfin Bush, born November 17, 1898; Leonard Ewing Bush, born July 6, 1901; and Mary Read Bush, born February 15, 1904. Bush was a member of the Presbyterian Church and a community leader. Leonard Holmes Bush died of heart disease at his home on May 14, 1941, and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Huntsville.

Austin American February 11, 1925; March 20, 1925. Dallas Morning News, February 9, 1911. Fort Worth Star-Telegram April 28, 1929. Galveston Daily News, March 8, 1925. Huntsville Item, October 27, 1938. San Antonio Express, January 6, 1925. Walker County Doctors Collection, Johnnie Jo Sowell Dickenson Genealogy Room, Huntsville Public Library. Walker County Historical Commission, Walker County, Texas: A History (Dallas: Curtis Media Corporation, 1986).

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

Charles W. Monday and Jane Clements Monday, “Bush, Leonard Holmes,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 18, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/bush-leonard-holmes.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 27, 2022
July 27, 2022

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