Houston’s First Black Health Executive Dies

Houston’s First Black Health Executive Dies

Dr. James Watson passed away at the age of 75.

Published May 31, 2011

(Photo: Family Photo)

The first African-American public health director for Houston, Texas, Dr. James Chesnut Watson, died last week from renal failure. He was 75.


The physician earned a medical degree from Howard University School of Medicine and a master’s degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center.


He served as chief of dispensary in the Armed Forces and from 1978 to 1980 Watson served as the director of public health for the city of Houston. After holding one of the highest executive health positions for the area, he then held multiple others including medical director at the Harris County Sheriff’s Department, according to the Houston Chronicle.


Family members remember Watson as a caring and spiritual man who saw and treated patients regardless of whether they were able to pay. Others say that his position on the Harris County Hospital District Board of Managers and his position as the city public health director allowed him to help make sure that people were able to get health care. 


He is survived by his wife, Marlene, four daughters, a stepdaughter and his sister Ruby Watson Marshall.


Services will held Wednesday at 10 a.m. at St. Mary's Catholic Church. He will be buried at Houston National Cemetery.

Written by Danielle Wright


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