Connie Yerwood Conner, pioneer in public health in Texas and the first Black physician named to the Texas Public Health Service (now the Texas Department of Health), the oldest daughter of Dr. Charles R. and Melissa (Brown) Yerwood, was born in Victoria, Texas, on December 26, 1908. She decided to become a doctor when she was a young girl. She and her sister, Joyce, who also became a doctor, accompanied their father on house calls in his largely rural practice in Gonzales County. At first, they traveled by horse-drawn buggies, then later by automobile. Conner attended public school in Austin and graduated from the Samuel Huston College Academy in 1925. She received the bachelor of arts degree cum laude from Samuel Huston College (now Huston-Tillotson College). In 1933 she graduated cum laude from Meharry Medical School. She began her residency in pediatrics but became interested in public health. She earned a scholarship to study public health at the University of Michigan and returned to Texas in 1937, when she joined the Texas Public Health Service. During the early years of her work with the state health agency, Conner was responsible for training midwives in East Texas. She also served as a consultant in setting up health clinics that offered services such as well baby clinics and prenatal care to the rural poor of Texas. In the beginning her duties were limited to work among the Black population in East Texas, but as the need and demand grew, she eventually worked with all cultures throughout the state. She led the state's efforts in early periodic screening diagnosis, treatment, and chronic diseases for pregnancy and pediatrics. When she retired on August 31, 1977, she was director of health services.
Conner was president of the Lone Star State Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical Association, secretary of the Charles H. Christian Medical Society, and a member of the Texas Medical Association. When she retired, she received outstanding service awards from the Texas Department of Health (renamed the Texas Department of State Health Services in 2003), the commissioner of health, and the staff of the maternal and child health division. She was the first African American to be appointed to serve on the Human Relations Committee, the predecessor of the Human Rights Commission (a local group of the Texas Commission on Human Rights). She was appointed to the first board of trustees of the Mental Health-Mental Retardation Center of Austin and Travis County. She also served on the boards of the Austin Child Guidance Center, Austin Evaluation Center, Citizens Advisory Committee to the Juvenile Board of Travis County, Girl Scouts, YWCA, and Travis County Grand Jury Association. She was a trustee of Samuel Huston College for fifteen years and was one of the board members who signed the merger agreement of Huston-Tillotson College in 1952; she continued on the board after the merger. Her retirement on March 22, 1991, was the culmination of over fifty-four years of service to the college. At her retirement from the board of trustees of the college she received its highest award, the Crystal Ram with Golden Horns. She was the second person to receive this prestigious award. She also received several awards as outstanding alumna from both Huston-Tillotson College and Meharry Medical College and an honorary degree of doctor of sciences from Samuel Huston College.
Conner was active in the Wesley United Methodist Church, where she served as chairman of the board of trustees. Even when she was traveling throughout the state as a young woman, she returned to Austin every weekend to teach a Sunday school class. She was a lay leader and received a distinguished service award from Church Women United for services in religious leadership. For fifteen years she served as grand treasurer in the Order of the Eastern Star. She was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, the Links, Incorporated, the American Association of University Women, the Community Welfare Association, and many other organizations. Conner died on June 11, 1991, in Austin, and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery.
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Austin American-Statesman, March 2, 1986, June 15, 16, 17, 1991. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
Health and Medicine
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Conner, Connie Yerwood,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
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