Riverside General Hospital

By: Mariah Jade Zimpfer

Type: General Entry

Published: August 15, 2013

Updated: April 8, 2021

Riverside General Hospital, originally known as the Houston Negro Hospital, was founded in 1927 in Houston, Texas. Similar to the culture in Texas, Riverside has undergone many transformations, but the hospital has contributed to the local communities of Houston, most notably the underserved populations, for more than eighty-five years. In the early 1900s a group of Black doctors petitioned for a hospital to be opened in Houston’s Third Ward to serve patients who would not be treated elsewhere due to either financial or racial reasons. The group of doctors—Rupert O. Roett, Charles Jackson, Benjamin J. Covington, Henry E. Lee, and F. F. Stone—were able to begin the construction of the Houston Negro Hospital in 1925 as a result of philanthropic acquired funds from Joseph S. Cullinan, Houston philanthropist and founder of the Texas Company. Cullinan established a fund for hospital construction in 1918 in honor of his son John Halm Cullinan, a World War I casualty, and in gratitude to the Black soldiers who tended his son before he died. The city of Houston donated land for the hospital, which was dedicated on June 19, 1926, and officially opened in July 1927. Isaiah M. Terrell was the first superintendent.

Houston Negro Hospital had the distinction of being Houston’s first nonprofit hospital for African American patients. The facility was staffed with all Black physicians and had an all-Black board of directors but with a White advisory council consisting of some of the city’s leading citizens. Many of the first doctors who were employed at the hospital were exemplary leaders in medicine and in overcoming racial discrimination. Both male and female doctors were hired from around Texas. In 1931 Houston Negro Hospital Nursing School opened on the grounds. The school was established to train Black nurses and was the first educational institution of its kind in Houston.

The hospital went through many developmental stages. In the beginning, it did not attract as many patients as it had hoped. By the mid-1930s financial problems and the lack of patients forced the nursing school to close and even threatened the entire facility. Funds from Houston’s Community Chest aided the hospital to a financial recovery. After adding such improvements as an X-Ray facility and laboratory in conjunction with beginning a new form of insurance that guaranteed treatment for all individuals, the hospital’s number of patients increased drastically. For more than forty years the hospital underwent many transformations while its founders and physicians attempted to introduce and perfect their healthcare system. In 1957 the board members of the hospital decided to add a new wing. Ultimately, the original structures of the hospital were allocated as historical sites. The new building, which was completed in 1961, was named Riverside General Hospital.

During the 1970s Riverside suffered more financial difficulties as Black physicians left to practice in other major medical hospitals in the city and took their patients with them. Efforts were made to renovate the hospital during the 1980s and 1990s. Riverside also increased its substance abuse treatment and expanded programs and support groups with a special focus on addressing both addiction and mental health disorders. In 1995 the hospital purchased other properties in Harris County—the Houston Recovery Campus (now the Barbara Jordan Healthcare Facility) and Shoulder’s Treatment Center (now the Edith Irby Jones Healthcare Center). By 2010 Riverside had six area clinics that provided outpatient psychiatric services. In the early twenty-first century, Riverside General Hospital remained committed to the underserved populations of the region and provided medical treatment for individuals who were not able to receive the services elsewhere.

Eugene B. Perry, “Riverside General Hospital: Formerly, Houston Negro Hospital, Houston, Texas,” Journal of National Medical Association, 57 (1965). Riverside General Hospital: Riverside General Hospital History (http://www.riversidegeneralhospital.org/getpage.php?name=houston&sub=About%20Us%29), accessed September 23, 2012.

  • Health and Medicine
  • Hospitals, Clinics, and Medical Centers
  • Peoples
  • African Americans
Time Periods:
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • Great Depression
  • Texas Post World War II
  • World War II
  • Texas in the 21st Century
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

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

Mariah Jade Zimpfer, “Riverside General Hospital,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 25, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/riverside-general-hospital.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 15, 2013
April 8, 2021

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: