James Odis Wyatt, physician and community leader, was born on November 30, 1906, in Victoria. He attended Temple and Dunbar school at San Angelo and graduated from Samuel Huston College (now Huston-Tillotson College) in Austin, where he was a student instructor of chemistry and physics. After graduating from Meharry Medical College at Nashville, Tennessee, in 1931, he completed an internship at Kansas City General Hospital Number Two. This hospital made him an instructor of surgery at its nursing school. In 1932 Wyatt returned to Texas, where he practiced at San Angelo for five years and then Kerrville for two years. He moved to Amarillo in 1939. Later he did postgraduate work at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and Cook County Graduate School in Chicago, Illinois. He held membership in several professional groups, including the Potter County Medical Society, the Texas Medical Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Association of Railway Surgeons. He served on the committee on hospitals for the Lone Star State Medical Association and was an area vice president for the National Medical Association. In addition to these professional affiliations Wyatt was director of the Amarillo Community Chest, director of the Amarillo Negro Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the Methodist Church, the Lobo Club, the Masons, the Elks, the Knights of Pythias, and Phi Beta Sigma. He also was chief commander of the John W. McKinney Consistory. In 1955 Dr. Wyatt became the first black man to seek elective office in Amarillo when he ran unsuccessfully for membership on the board of trustees of the Amarillo Independent School District. He made the race because he believed a black person should be involved in the implementation of school desegregation. His candidacy provoked a cross-burning in his front yard, an incident that he ignored. Wyatt married LaVernia Lott on June 11, 1936. They had two sons and two daughters. He died of heart disease on June 3, 1958.
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Amarillo Daily News, June 4, 1958. Amarillo Globe-News, June 3, 1958. Texas State Journal of Medicine, August 1958. Who's Who in Colored America.
Health and Medicine
Physicians and Surgeons
Activism and Social Reform
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
John S. Gray III,
“Wyatt, James Odis,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 25, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
September 1, 1995
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: