Edgar Ewell Ward, African-American physician and Dallas civic leader, son of Jacob and Betty (Norsingle) Ward, was born in Dallas, Texas, in October 16, 1892. He received his public education in Dallas where he graduated with honors from Booker T. Washington High School in 1911. After graduating from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1915, he moved to El Paso to begin his medical career.
In 1920 Ward moved to Dallas to open his practice and was elected medical director of the Excelsior Mutual Benefit Association. He was elected medical director and board member of the Excelsior Life Insurance Company in 1933 and was elected president of the company in 1943. He retired from his medical practice in 1948 to devote all his time to the insurance company. Ward also invested in real estate and owned both residential and commercial properties throughout Dallas.
Ward was very active in the civic affairs of the Dallas African-American community. He was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), president of the Dallas Negro Chamber of Commerce (now Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce), trustee of the New Hope Baptist Church, and member of Alpha Phi Alpha. In 1937 he was one of the first to serve as the honorary “Bronze Mayor of Dallas.” Ward was appointed to a biracial committee by Mayor Woodall Rogers in 1943 and headed the black division of the war bond campaign. He received the Sun Mutual and E. J. Crawford’s Award for being “Dallas’ Most Outstanding Citizen in 1946,” and in 1947 he was honored with the State Fair Award as the “Most Outstanding Negro Leader in Texas” by the State Fair Association.
Ward hosted the first two black football players to play in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on New Year’s Day 1947. These players from Penn State played against Southern Methodist University, but because Texas hotels were segregated the black athletes had to stay with Ward during their visit to Dallas. Ward lived on the corner of Dathe Street and Oakland Avenue in South Dallas. In 1950 he collected funds to support Heman Marion Sweatt, the postal worker who applied to the University of Texas School of Law and was involved in the famous desegregation case Sweatt v. Painter.
Ward and his wife Pauline, who was also very active in the community, had no children. By the time Ward died, he had served as medical director, stockholder, and member of the board of directors as well as president and owner of the Excelsior Life Insurance Company. He died in Dallas on September 27, 1950, and was buried at Lincoln Memorial Cemetery. Many Dallas leaders, family, and friends (including Thurgood Marshall) from around the nation attended his funeral service at New Hope Baptist Church. Edgar Ward Place, a public housing project constructed in West Dallas in 1953, was named in his honor.
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Dallas Express, October 7, 1950. Dallas Morning News, February 4, 1938; September 29, 1950. Andrew Webster Jackson, A Sure Foundation and a Sketch of Negro Life in Texas (Houston, 1940). Robert Prince, A History of Dallas From a Different Perspective (Dallas: Nortex Press, 1993).
Health and Medicine
Physicians and Surgeons
Activism and Social Reform
Dallas/Fort Worth Region
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Omar Carrizales and Lisa C. Maxwell,
“Ward, Edgar Ewell,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 25, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
May 22, 2013
Most Recent Revision Date:
May 16, 2013
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: