Joseph Alvin Chatman, black physician and civic leader, was born on May 28, 1901, in Navasota, Texas, the youngest of five children of Sandy and Sally (Greer) Chatman. He attended public schools and was a seasonal cotton-picker at Mexia. At eighteen he was admitted to Prairie View Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Prairie View A&M University), where he played football and led an undefeated baseball team. Chatman then attended Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he took premed courses and remained on the honor roll despite heavy participation on both the varsity football and baseball teams. In 1926 he received an M.D. from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, third in his class. He began his medical career in Mexia, Texas, where he built the Chatman Hospital. He also published and coedited a weekly, Open Forum. He organized an insurance company, helped to establish a County Negro Fair, and was secretary of the Negro Chamber of Commerce. He received a bachelor of science degree in 1927 from Samuel Huston College (now Huston-Tillotson College) in Austin.
Chatman moved to Lubbock in 1939 and there founded the Chatman Medical and Surgical Clinic and Hospital, the first hospital for African Americans in Lubbock, completed in 1945. Nurses' quarters and quarters for ambulatory patients were added later. Chatman was active in state, local, and national medical organizations and was elected Lubbock "Man of the Year" for six consecutive years, until the award was discontinued. He was a member of the building committee for Lubbock City Hall, and his name is engraved on the building. He was an active volunteer for many years in the Community Chest, later the United Fund, and the March of Dimes. He fostered activities of the Negro Boys Club and was chairman of the board of directors. He also served as presiding judge of Precinct Eleven. He was a member of the Knights of Pythias and Masonic lodges and a devoted member and district trustee of the Methodist Episcopal Church, where he served on the Hospital and Homes Committee for the Northwestern Area. Governor Price Daniel appointed Chatman in 1960 to the President's White House Conference on Youth and in 1964 to the Conference on the Aged. In 1955 Chatman was awarded an honorary doctor of humanities degree by Paul Quinn College and was the alumni speaker. In 1956 he received an achievement award from Prairie View A&M University and again served as an alumni speaker. On March 23, 1963, he was appointed by Governor John Connally to serve on the board of directors of Texas Southern University, Houston, where he was chairman of the building committee.
Chatman was an ardent Democrat. He was the first black to be an official in the Democratic party in Lubbock County and served as a delegate to the state Democratic convention. In 1963 at a testimonial dinner given by the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance to honor Chatman as "a man of deeds," prominent Democrats sending congratulatory messages included Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, Governor John Connally, Lieutenant Governor Preston Smith, and United States Representative George H. Mahon. Chatman was the author of various publications, including History of Negroes in Limestone County (1939) and The Lone Star State Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical Association History (1959). He married Ruth Morton on June 1, 1927; they had two sons. She died in December 1935. He married Emmalene Phea on May 2, 1955, and they had two sons. Chatman died on January 12, 1967, and was buried in the City of Lubbock Cemetery.