Williams, Joseph Ralph (1920–2009)

By: Andy Galloway

Type: Biography

Published: May 20, 2013

Updated: April 8, 2021

Joseph Ralph Williams, African-American doctor and civic leader, was born to Ida L. (Hampton) Williams and Robert Williams on April 25, 1920, in Dallas, Texas. He graduated as valedictorian from Booker T. Washington High School in 1938 and attended Texas College in Tyler, Texas. Williams was the editor of the school paper, The Texas Steer. To pay for his studies, he worked as an auxiliary fireman with the Tyler Fire Department. After receiving his B.A. in 1942, Williams entered medical school at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. After graduation in 1945, Williams began his internship at the Homer G. Phillips Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. Despite a lack of funding, this hospital was dedicated to training Black doctors and nurses so that they could serve the community. Williams married Marian Lucile Baugh on April 23, 1948, in St. Louis. They had six children: Roslyn Elaine, Stephanie Loyce, Joseph Ralph II, Geoffrey Manfred, Angela Teresa, and Kevin Duane.

Williams practiced medicine in Tyler and Huntsville before returning to Dallas in the early 1950s. He shared a practice with Dr. E. Homer Browne and Frank H. Jordan. In 1954 Williams made local history. Of the eighteen Black doctors practicing in Dallas, Williams and his partner Jordan, were two of five Black doctors allowed to practice at St. Paul Hospital, a Catholic institution which had formerly allowed only White physicians, a stipulation of all of the major Dallas hospitals. In late 1955 Williams became one of three African-American physicians to be admitted into the Dallas County Medical Society. Around the same time the Texas Medical Association opened its membership to Black doctors. Membership in both societies was a requirement for official staff status at the major Dallas hospitals. Therefore, in June 1956 Williams, along with six other African-American physicians, was granted granted staff membership at St. Paul.

During the 1960s Williams established a practice with Dudley V. Powell and specialized in the field of obstetrics and gynecology. In addition to his historic push for racial integration in the Dallas healthcare system, Williams also played a pivotal role in the revitalization of South Dallas through his involvement with the South Dallas Crossroads Community Center. This $2.6 million complex was a massive project, which required three years, from 1968 to 1971, for planning and construction. The concept was to place numerous city, county, and federal offices within a five-building “campus-like complex” on 10.6 acres of land. This complex would offer “welfare and counseling, employment training, medical and health services, recreation and education, child care and neighborhood and community involvement programs” to an expected 75,000 citizens. Williams was chosen medical director for the health center in 1969. The job presented challenges—Williams, three registered nurses, and one vocational nurse were the only employees to serve a population of 22,200 in the primary target area alone. For their clientele, Williams and his staff provided a full range of services that included health education, preventive medicine, and diagnostic treatment in addition to treating illnesses.

Despite the demands and pressures of this job, Williams continued to attend and speak at medical conferences. For his labor, he was promoted to the director of the Public Health Department for the city of Dallas by 1976. As early as 1977 his skills were called upon to confirm and quarantine a suspected outbreak of disease. He continued to act as the Dallas health director until his retirement in 1982. In retirement he remained active in honing his skills at personal computing and spending time with his grandchildren. Joseph Ralph Williams died on February 17, 2009. He was buried in Restland Memorial Park.

Dallas Morning News, December 15, 1955; June 21, 1956; February 19, 1969; February 1, 1970; February 15, 1976; February 22, 2009; July 12, 2010. “The Integration Battle-Front: Dallas Hospital Admits Five Negro Physicians to Staff,” Journal of the National Medical Association 46 (September 1954). H. Phillip Venable, “The History of Homer G. Phillips Hospital,” Journal of the National Medical Association 53 (November 1961).

  • Health and Medicine
  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • Public Health Officials
  • Peoples
  • African Americans
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

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

Andy Galloway, “Williams, Joseph Ralph,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 26, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/williams-joseph-ralph.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 20, 2013
April 8, 2021

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