J. B. Shelmire, specialist of dermatology, was born on February 13, 1858, in Port Hudson, Louisiana, to Thomas and Mary K. Shelmire of East Baton Rouge Parish. Shelmire attended Centenary College at Jackson, Louisiana, where he received a bachelor of arts in 1878. He received his medical degree in 1883 from Tulane University and then served as an intern for two years in Charity Hospital, New Orleans, after which he was a general practitioner in the small rural town of Zachary, Louisiana, from 1884 to 1894. In 1894 he undertook postgraduate work in dermatology in New York. Upon completion of his training, he moved to Dallas, Texas, where he set up his new practice and where he remained until his death in 1931. By 1900 Shelmire was an established specialist in dermatology, as well as genitourinary and rectal medicine. His home on Thomas Avenue near McKinney Avenue is north of downtown Dallas, and he owned several town lots in Dallas. Shelmire was a pioneer dermatologist in Texas and the first in the Southwest to be honored with membership in the American Dermatological Association. From 1905 to 1915 he was professor of dermatology and a member of the executive committee at Southwestern University Medical Department at Dallas. When the school closed in 1915, he accepted the chair of dermatology at Baylor University College of Medicine, which he held until his retirement in 1927. He then became professor emeritus of dermatology at Baylor. He was an active member of the Dallas County Medical Society, the Texas Medical Association, the Southern Medical Association, and the North Texas District Medical Society. He was also a fellow of the American Medical Association and the American College of Surgeons. In addition to publishing articles in various medical journals, he was a collaborating editor of the Acta dermato-Venerologica. He was one of the first to chair the Section of Dermatology and Syphilology of the Southern Medical Association. By 1900 he was a member of a local chapter of the Knights of Pythias and president of the Dallas Medical and Surgical Association. In 1916 he was elected to the Texas Surgical Society. He was the first to promote the use of ethyl-chloride spray, an anesthetic, in larva migrans, a skin disease. In 1884 Shelmire married Mary Louise Christian in New Orleans. They had five children. The youngest, Jesse Bedford Shelmire, Jr. (1894–1981), also became a dermatologist, joined his father's practice, and later accepted the chair of dermatology at Baylor University College of Medicine. He also received the silver medal from the American Medical Association. His son, J. Bedford Shelmire III (1926–80) was also a dermatologist and the author of The Art of Looking Younger (1973) and The Art of Being Beautiful (1975). Both physicians practiced in Dallas. J. B. Shelmire, Sr., was admitted to the Dallas Medical and Surgical Clinic on Sunday, July 5, 1931, for an emergency appendectomy; however, it was gangrenous, and he died on July 9, 1931. The pallbearers included his sons-in-law, colleagues, and Mayor T. L. Bradford, when Dr. Shelmire was buried in Grove Hill Cemetery the next day.
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Dallas Morning News, July 10, 1931. Men of Texas (Houston: Houston Post, 1903). Texas State Journal of Medicine, September 1931.
Health and Medicine
Physicians and Surgeons
Allergists and Dermatologists
Dallas/Fort Worth Region
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Shelmire, Jesse Bedford,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 26, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
July 1, 1995
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