Dr. Herman Aladdin Barnett, III
Born in Austin, Texas, in 1926, Dr. Herman Aladdin Barnett, III, began dreaming of a life in medicine when he was only four years old. Graduating from high school in 1943 in the midst of World War II, he put his dreams on hold and joined the U.S. Army. He trained to become a combat pilot and soon joined the celebrated Tuskegee Airmen. With the war’s conclusion, however, he was honorably discharged in 1946 without seeing combat.
Dr. Barnett received his premedical education in Samuel Huston College. (This historically black college merged with Tillotson College in 1952 as Huston-Tillotson.). In 1949, Dr. Barnett broke the color barrier at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) as the institution’s first African-American medical student.
After graduating from medical school in 1953, Dr. Barnett completed his internship and surgical residency at the Medical Branch hospitals. He specialized in trauma, focusing on the physiological changes bodies experienced in emergencies and during post-operative recoveries.
In 1968, Dr. Barnett completed a second residency in anesthesia at St. Joseph Hospital in Houston. During his career, Dr. Barnett was affiliated with numerous hospitals, including Hermann Hospital, Lockwood Hospital, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Riverside General Hospital, Galveston County Memorial Hospital, UTMB Hospitals, and St. Joseph Hospital.
Dr. Barnett was active in various professional organizations. He was a member of the American Medical Association, National Medical Association, Texas Medical Association, Lone Star State Medical Association, Harris County Medical Society, Houston Medical Forum, Mu Delta Honorary Society, and Chi Delta Mu Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical Society.
Dr. Barnett was a pioneer again when he became the first African-American to serve on the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners. His dedication to medicine earned him many honors, such as the American Cancer Society fellowship for the study of the carcinogenic effect of sulfonamides; a fellowship from The National Medical Fellowship, Inc.; the Omega Phi Psi Citizenship Award; and the Huston-Tillotson Achievement Award.
Like many entrepreneurial black physicians in the twentieth century, Dr. Barnett also was also a successful businessman. He was the chairman and president of the board of the North East Houston Investment Corporation, and a member of the board of directors of the Lockwood National Bank of Houston, among other positions. Deeply committed to his community, Dr. Barnett broke new ground again when he became the first African American elected president of the Board of Trustees of the Houston Independent School District.
In 1968, Dr. Barnett co-founded an African-American flying club called the Bronze Eagles Flying Club. The members began to host an annual exhibition every Memorial Day with a fellow African-American flying club called Sky Hook. In 1973, following a cancelled show, Dr. Barnett died in a crash when his plane got caught in unexpected crosswinds.
To commemorate Dr. Barnett’s many contributions to the African-American and medical communities, his friends established the annual Herman Barnett Memorial Award, which has been given to an outstanding medical student annually since 1974. In 1978, he posthumously received the Ashbel Smith Award, UTMB’s highest honor.
To see further exhibits about Dr. Herman Barnett’s experiences as a Tuskegee Airman during World War II, as the first African-American student to attend the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, and as a practicing physician in Houston please visit the Dr. Herman Barnett exhibit at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston Moody Medical Library in Galveston, Texas and at the National Buffalo Soldiers Museum in Houston, Texas.
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