In 1881, when Texans decided to locate the medical school of the University of Texas in Galveston, St. Mary's Infirmary (now St. Mary's Hospital) was the only hospital in the Oleander City. Physicians and others believed that a new hospital would be needed to support the new medical school. John Sealy, one of Galveston's wealthiest citizens, died in 1884 and left $50,000 of his estate for a public charity. In 1887 his widow and brother decided to use this gift for a new city hospital to be named in honor of the donor. Students attending the proposed medical school could learn their professional skills while attending the impoverished sick admitted to John Sealy Hospital. City officials and university regents signed a formal lease in 1889, vesting management of the institution in a five-man board of managers. The board included two members named by the city council, two members named by the University of Texas regents, and a fifth member to be selected by the other four. Though members changed, this arrangement continued until 1941, when the UT regents assumed complete control of the facility, which became state owned and operated.
John Sealy Hospital opened on January 10, 1890, with 108 ward beds. Two months later a group of women organized the John Sealy Hospital Training School for Nurses. By the fall of 1890 hospital personnel had treated 1,000 inpatients and 400 outpatients. When the University of Texas Medical Branch opened in October 1891, John Sealy Hospital became its primary teaching facility. By 1900 the hospital staff had attended more than 12,000 inpatients and 22,000 outpatients.
To sustain their father's dream, John H. Sealy and Jennie Sealy Smith established the Sealy and Smith Foundation for the John Sealy Hospital in 1922. Using income from this foundation's endowment plus federal and state funds, university and hospital officials authorized the construction of additional facilities: the Outpatient Clinic Building (1932), Galveston State Psychopathic Hospital (1931), a new Rebecca Sealy Nurses' Home (1932), a State Hospital for Crippled and Deformed Children (1937), and a new Negro Hospital (1937). By the late 1930s hospital personnel had attended more than 150,000 inpatients and more than a million outpatients.
After 1950 the Sealy and Smith Foundation provided more than $200 million for the construction and improvement of clinical facilities on the UTMB campus, including such major structures as the new John Sealy Hospital (1954), the John W. McCullough Outpatient Clinic Building (1966), Jennie Sealy Hospital (1968), and John Sealy Towers (1978). In 1988 UTMB medical professionals attended more than 30,000 inpatients and more than 350,000 outpatients in these superb clinical facilities, thereby perpetuating the extraordinary legacy of the Sealy family. See also UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS MEDICAL BRANCH AT GALVESTON.