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McGregor, John Frederick (1893–1986)

Kendall Curlee Biography

John F. "Doc" McGregor, photographer, was born on March 26, 1893, in Kittanning, Pennsylvania, the eldest of four children of John Gilbert and Mary Elizabeth (Frederick) McGregor. After graduating in 1920 from the Palmer Chiropractic Institute in Davenport, Iowa, he established a practice in Butler, Pennsylvania. He married Irene Jeanetta Shanor in 1921, and they had two daughters and a son. After chiropractic treatment was outlawed in Pennsylvania in 1928 McGregor agreed to be the subject of a test case. He was jailed for practicing illegally and lost the case due to lack of funds. In 1929 the McGregor family set out for California. On their way west they detoured through Texas and decided to settle in Corpus Christi. McGregor set up business as a chiropractor, but his practice did not flourish, as few people had the money for such treatments during the Great Depression. He began selling the photographs that he took as a hobby, and eventually his photographic business eclipsed his chiropractic practice, although he continued to offer treatments, often without charge, throughout his career. By World War II "Doc's Photographic Studio" had spawned four branch studios that McGregor operated with the help of his wife and thirty-seven employees. Although he later closed the branch studios, his reputation as the leading commercial photographer in South Texas was firmly established.

He supplemented his studio work by freelancing for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and produced more than 500,000 photographs in the course of his career. Although babies, weddings, and other subjects typical to commercial photography made up a substantial portion of his work, McGregor also captured evocative vignettes of Corpus Christi's transition from a small port to a major city. He rode a drawbridge up and down to photograph hundreds of ships entering the port, photographed Corpus Christi's developing skyline from airplanes, and documented the growth of the Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi. McGregor also photographed early horse races in Kingsville, raids on bootleggers, gas and oil well fires, the King Ranch, and crowds thronging the North Beach and boardwalk. He used a panoramic camera to take group photographs of clubs, football teams, bathing-beauty contests, military units, church groups, and businesses. He used the same format to capture expansive landscapes of waterfront and city street scenes and the Corpus Christi skyline. McGregor encouraged the growth of photography in the area by bringing the first automatic film processor and printer to Corpus. He taught photography on an informal basis for many years before teaching the first photography class at Corpus Christi Junior College.

In addition to his activities as a photographer and chiropractor, he served as precinct chairman of the Democratic party for thirty-five years. He attended the First Methodist Church and belonged to the Odd Fellows, the York and Scottish Rite Masons, the Shrine, and the Knights of Pythias. He wrote essays and poems for a series of advertisements in the Caller Times entitled "Doc Says" and continued to write on a daily basis after he discontinued the advertising campaign. In 1970 his property was extensively damaged by Hurricane Celia, but he took out a loan and continued his photography business until 1977, when he retired. He spent his last years in a nursing home and died in Corpus Christi on May 17, 1986. He was buried at Seaside Memorial Park. The most comprehensive collection of his work may be found in the Corpus Christi Museum. His work is also included in the photography collection of the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin, the Bishop Chamber of Commerce in Bishop, and the Central Power and Light Company in Corpus Christi.

Corpus Christi Caller-Times, May 19, 1986. Raymond Crawford, "Doc Never Made It to California," Corpus Christi, May 1982. John Frederick McGregor, Doc Says: Essays and Poems by Dr. John Frederick McGregor, ed. Lorena Jeanne McGregor Tinker (St. Louis: Washington University, 1972). Richard Pearce-Moses, Photographic Collections in Texas: A Union Guide (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1987).


  • Visual Arts
  • Photography

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

Kendall Curlee, “McGregor, John Frederick,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 01, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.