Memorial Healthcare System

By: Diana J. Kleiner

Type: General Entry

Published: April 1, 1995

Updated: May 18, 2017

The Memorial Healthcare System in Houston, also known as the Baptist Sanitarium and Memorial Baptist Hospital, operates four not-for-profit acute-care hospitals and a comprehensive ambulatory health center that offer comprehensive primary and specialty care. Facilities include the Northwest, Southeast, Southwest, and Woodlands branches and the Memorial Health Center ambulatory-care facility in Sugar Land. The system also offers senior services, home health care, a retirement center, wellness programs, skilled-nursing facilities, managed-care programs for employers, and other services. The Memorial Foundation generates resources in support of the system's mission. The system began in 1904 when a Baptist minister, Rev. Dennis R. Pevoto, established a charitable institution open to all individuals regardless of race, religion, or ability to pay. With the help of Mrs. Charles Stewart, Pevoto acquired an eighteen-bed facility in downtown Houston from Mrs. Ida J. Rudisill and in 1907 received a charter for the Baptist Sanitarium, the first Baptist health-care institution in Texas and the second Baptist hospital in the nation. Mrs. Rudisill stayed on as the first superintendent of nursing and unofficial manager of the hospital. Mrs. J. P. (Lillie) Burnett, who later became the wife of Robert Jolly, directed the nursing school. By 1920 the institution had 200 beds, and by 1946 it had become known as the Memorial Baptist Hospital. Robert Jolly, who succeeded Pevoto as superintendent from 1921 until 1945, is credited with bringing the institution to national prominence.

The hospital had a staff of more than 1,000 by the 1950s and continued to expand. Responding to population shifts in the community in 1962, hospital administrator Wilson Turner established the system's first satellite unit, Memorial Hospital Southwest, a separate hospital with services backed by the expertise and resources of the downtown center. A southeast unit opened in 1963 and the northwest branch in 1966. A new central facility was completed beside the Southwest Freeway in 1977. In that year the nursing school was incorporated into Houston Baptist University. By the 1980s each of Memorial's satellite units had become a full-service hospital, while the system also offered management expertise and technical support to ten affiliated hospitals in communities across South and East Texas. New facilities were added after 1985, including the 186-unit University Place retirement center in 1989, on ten acres adjacent to Memorial Hospital Southwest. In 1992 the hospital opened its Woodlands branch to serve north Harris and south Montgomery counties. By that time Memorial trained nurses from the schools of nursing at Houston Baptist University, Houston Community College, the University of Texas, and Wharton County Junior College. As Houston's first hospital system to offer a preferred-provider organization, Memorial supplied health care to 55,000 Houstonians, including the employees of numerous area corporations. In the 1990s Dan S. Wilford served as president of the system, which had 1,000 volunteers and 4,000 employees, including 2,000 physicians, and provided more than $192 million in uncompensated care. The system is a charter member of Voluntary Hospitals of America.

  • Health and Medicine
  • Hospitals, Clinics, and Medical Centers
  • Religion
  • Baptist
  • Organizations
Time Periods:
  • Progressive Era
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • Great Depression
  • Texas Post World War II
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

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

Diana J. Kleiner, “Memorial Healthcare System,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 27, 2022,

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April 1, 1995
May 18, 2017

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