Houston’s Union Hospital (1900-1926, Section 8)
As World War I drew to a close, Dr. Rupert O. Roett decided to address the ongoing health problems in Houston’s African-American community. Born in Barbados, Dr. Roett was the son of a nurse and grandson of a dentist. He graduated from Meharry Medical College in 1915 and completed his internship and residency at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Dr. Roett traveled through Houston in 1918 on his way to California, where he planned to open his practice. He was persuaded by other black physicians in Houston, however, to stay in the booming Texas town. Most immediately, Dr. Roett believed, Houston needed a central hospital to serve the area’s growing black populace.
Dr. Roett joined Drs. Benjamin Jesse Covington, Henry E. Lee, Charles Jackson, and F. F. Stone, an eye ear, nose, and throat specialist, to found Union Hospital. They combined their financial resources and launched this six-bed hospital in a remodeled house with sparse equipment. Located at the corner of Howard and Nash Streets in Houston’s Fourth Ward, it included one surgical suite.
Union Hospital quickly outgrew this limited space, and in 1923, the founders moved the facility into an abandoned hospital building at the intersection of Genesee Street and Andrews Street in Fourth Ward. The building previously belonged to an unlicensed preacher-healer known as Mr. Jeremiah. The founders renamed their institution the Union-Jeremiah Hospital to capture the building’s history.