Joseph Banning McKnight, physician, son of Joseph P. and Mary (Elkins) McKnight, was born in Dallas on November 7, 1869. With a very rudimentary preparatory education he enrolled in the Memphis Hospital and Medical College (now the University of Tennessee) to study medicine. After receiving his M.D. degree in 1893 he stayed on at the college for an internship and spent a year in residence at St. Joseph's Hospital, Memphis. In later years he did postgraduate study at Rush Medical School Polyclinic in Chicago, the Trudeau School of Tuberculosis at Saranac Lake, New York, and Charity Hospital in New Orleans. He began his medical practice in Menardville (now Menard), Texas, and served that community, Fort McKavett, and the surrounding countryside before moving to Brady in 1908. Late in 1913 he was appointed head of the newly founded state tuberculosis colony near Carlsbad, a small hospital with facilities for fifty-seven patients. McKnight accepted the appointment for one year, but stayed on to serve as superintendent and medical director until his retirement on April 1, 1950, when the legislature honored him by naming the facility McKnight State Tuberculosis Sanatorium (see SANATORIUM, TEXAS). Under his direction the hospital expanded into a treatment center with more than 1,000 beds; more than 28,000 patients were treated during his tenure.
In 1915 McKnight founded the first training school in Texas for nurses of tuberculosis patients. During World War I he served as examiner of men found unfit for service by reason of diseases of the chest. In 1918 he was instrumental in establishing an extension service that supplied printed information on the study and prevention of tuberculosis, especially directed to the pupils of Texas public schools. Throughout his career he supported reforms in public health. In 1922 he was a member of the building committee for the federal Veterans Administration Hospital, Kerrville (later the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Kerrville), and in 1935 he helped to establish the Kerrville State Sanatorium (later the Kerrville State Hospital). He was active in the affairs of the American Medical Association and held various offices in the Texas Medical Association and in local medical groups. He became a fellow of the American College of Chest Physicians in 1939, a member of the American Trudeau Society in 1941, and a member of the American Association of Railway Surgeons in 1948. He was married to Geraldine Mabel Latham on June 19, 1894, and his wife worked with him toward the eradication of tuberculosis in Texas. McKnight died in San Angelo on January 27, 1961, a short time after the death of his wife; both were buried in San Angelo.