Connie Yerwood Connor

Jun 16, 2021 - 12:59 pm

Connie Yerwood Connor was a  pioneer in public health in Texas and the first Black physician named to the Texas Public Health Service (now the Texas Department of Health). She was born in Victoria, Texas, in 1908. 

Both she and her sister, Joyce, would go along with their father, Dr. Charles R. Yerwood, when he made house calls in Gonzales County before they moved to Austin. Witnessing her father practice medicine was enough to put both women on their paths into the medical field. -----quotes from statesman?

Connor attended public school in Austin and graduated from the Samuel Huston College Academy in 1925 and received the bachelor of arts degree cum laude from Samuel Huston College (now Huston-Tillotson College). 

In 1933 she graduated cum laude from Meharry Medical School in Nashville, TN. She began her residency in pediatrics but became interested in public health and shifted the focus of her studies and earned a scholarship to study public health at the University of Michigan. She then returned to Texas in 1937, when she joined the Texas Public Health Service. 

In her early years with the state health agency, Connor was responsible for training midwives in East Texas and serving as a consultant for setting up health clinics that offered natal and prenatal services to the rural poor of Texas. She actually led the state's efforts in early periodic screening diagnosis, treatment, and chronic diseases for pregnancy and pediatrics.

Initially her duties were limited to work among the Black population in East Texas, but as the need for her knowledge and services grew, she eventually came to work all over Texas and within all culture groups.

Connor was president of the Lone Star State Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical Association, secretary of the Charles H. Christian Medical Society, and a member of the Texas Medical Association. 

In 1977 she retired as the director of health services and received outstanding service awards from the Texas Department of Health (now the Texas Department of State Health Services), the commissioner of health, and the staff of the maternal and child health division. 

She was the first African American to be appointed to serve on the Human Relations Committee, the predecessor of the Human Rights Commission (a local group of the Texas Commission on Human Rights), and was appointed to the first board of trustees of the Mental Health-Mental Retardation Center of Austin and Travis County. She also served on the boards of the Austin Child Guidance Center, Austin Evaluation Center, Citizens Advisory Committee to the Juvenile Board of Travis County, Girl Scouts, YWCA, and Travis County Grand Jury Association. 

She became a trustee of Samuel Huston College and served for fifteen years and was one of the board members who signed the merger agreement of Huston-Tillotson College in 1952; continuing on as a trustee of the board after the merger. 

Her retirement from that position in 1991 marked the culmination of over fifty-four years of service to the college and at her retirement from the board of trustees she received its highest award, the Crystal Ram with Golden Horns (she was only the second person to receive this prestigious award). This was among several awards she received as an outstanding alumna from both Huston-Tillotson College and Meharry Medical College in addition to an honorary degree of doctor of sciences from Samuel Huston College.

Throughout her career Connor was also active in the Wesley United Methodist Church, where she served as chairman of the board of trustees. Even when she was traveling throughout the state as a young woman, she returned to Austin every weekend to teach a Sunday school class, making sure she was home by Saturday to ensure she didn’t miss it. She was a lay leader and received a distinguished service award from Church Women United for services in religious leadership. For fifteen years she served as grand treasurer in the Order of the Eastern Star. She was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, the Links, Incorporated, the American Association of University Women, the Community Welfare Association, and many other organizations. Connor died on June 11, 1991, in Austin, and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery near her family.

 

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