Charles Whittaker Pemberton, black Houston physician, was born to H. B. and Norella (Hawley) Pemberton in Marshall, Texas, in 1892. He attended Central High School and graduated with a bachelor of arts degree from Wiley College at Marshall. He received his M.D. degree from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. After completing an internship at St. Louis City Hospital in 1924, Pemberton moved to Houston, Texas, where he practiced medicine for forty-five years.
He was the first black member of the Houston Independent School District's Health Department; during his thirty-seven-year tenure he became assistant director. He also was a director of medical service for the International Longshoremen's Association, vice president of the National Medical Association (an association for black physicians dating from 1895), member of the governing council of the American School Health Association, and delegate to two World Health assemblies. In addition to his professional activities he served as honorary consul for the Republic of Liberia. In 1966 Pemberton attended the celebration of the 119th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Liberia. While he was there he was enrolled as a Knight Commander of the Humane Order of African Redemption by William V. S. Tubman, the president of Liberia. This honor is generally reserved for persons who have given distinguished service to the republic.
Pemberton was a United States Army veteran of World War I and a member of the Harris County Medical Society and the Houston Medical Forum. He founded the Houston chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi and cofounded the Sigma Pi Phi social fraternity. He married Doris Hollis on February 11, 1945. They had four children. Pemberton died on September 11, 1976, and was buried in Paradise Cemetery North in Houston.
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Houston Forward Times, September 18, 1976. Texas Medicine, March 1977.
Health and Medicine
Physicians and Surgeons
Upper Gulf Coast
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
John S. Gray III,
“Pemberton, Charles Whittaker,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 20, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
May 1, 1995
Most Recent Revision Date:
May 17, 2017
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: