Sweeney, James Shirley (1896–1976)

By: Lisa C. Maxwell

Type: Biography

Published: July 1, 1995

James Shirley Sweeney, physician, son of James Benjamin and Lena May (Williams) Sweeney, was born in Waco, Texas, on July 30, 1896. He received his bachelor of arts and master of arts at Texas Christian University, where he played football. While attending TCU he was an instructor of biology from 1916 to 1918. He married Ruth Young McFadin on September 15, 1920. They had twin sons. In 1921 he graduated magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, where he also served as instructor of biology. He received both master of health and doctor of science degrees at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, where he served as a Rockefeller Fellow from 1921 to 1924. Before going on to complete his residency he acted as an epidemiologist with the Louisiana State Board of Health. He served both his internship and residency at Baylor University Hospital in Dallas. In 1925 Dr. Sweeney began an internal medicine practice in Dallas, which he continued until 1942. During this time he was also professor of clinical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, beginning as instructor of medicine immediately after his residency was completed and becoming an associate professor in 1934. Sweeney was the chairman of the Dallas Health Advisory Board from 1931 to 1935. In 1939 he received an honorary doctor of laws from Texas Christian University. He enlisted in the Army medical corps in 1942 and served there during World War II, earning the rank of colonel. After the war ended Sweeney was asked to set up a veterans hospital in Logan, Colorado, in conjunction with the Colorado School of Medicine, where he was made an associate professor of medicine. At the Veterans Administration Hospital in Fort Logan he served as medical manager from 1946 to 1947. Before opening a private practice in Gainesville, Texas, he returned briefly to Dallas. While operating his practice in Gainesville from 1947 to 1953, he set up Camp Sweeney for Diabetic Youth, before returning to Dallas. During his career he was a member of various boards and societies, but his most important contribution was the formation of the Texas Diabetes Association, the Southwestern Diabetic Foundation, the Sweeney Foundation, and Camp Sweeney for Diabetic Youth. He served on a variety of boards, including acting as the director of the Child Guidance Clinic, Dallas Birth Control Clinic, and the Texas Society for Mental Hygiene. He was a member of the Dallas County Medical Society, Southern Medical Association, Texas Medical Association, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Texas Academy of Internal Medicine, American Diabetes Association, American Association for the Study of Internal Secretions, and the American College of Physicians. In addition to his membership in medical societies he belonged to fraternal organizations, such as Sigma Chi, Phi Chi, Alpha Omega Alpha, and Delta Omega. He was a Mason, a Shriner, and a member of the Christian Church. He also belonged to the Dallas Country Club, the Town and Gown Club, and the Thirteen Club. He wrote one book, The Natural Increase of Mankind (n.d.), and contributed articles to a variety of scientific journals. James Sweeney was married a second time to Jane Aronson around 1942. Dr. Sweeney died in Dallas on June 25, 1976.

Sam Hanna Acheson, Herbert P. Gambrell, Mary Carter Toomey, and Alex M. Acheson, Jr., Texian Who's Who, Vol. 1 (Dallas: Texian, 1937). Dallas Morning News, June 26, 1976. Texas Medicine, February 1977.

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

Lisa C. Maxwell, “Sweeney, James Shirley,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 18, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/sweeney-james-shirley.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995

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