On March 25, Ashbel Smith Hall in Austin was imploded to make way for a new downtown development. This was not a case of yet another capital city landmark falling by the wayside, as the nine-story concrete building was, by all accounts, bland and architecturally dull. The building’s namesake, however, is a different story.
Ashbel Smith, MD, laid the foundation for the advancement of medicine in Texas. In 1848, he drafted and signed a petition to the state legislature requesting a charter for the creation of a medical and surgical society. Though the charter request was denied, Texas doctors remained determined, and in 1853, Dr. Smith and 35 other physicians added their signatures to the first charter of the Texas Medical Association.
Active in the organization from its inception, Dr. Smith became its 13th president in 1881. He also remained busy with his Galveston medical practice, making noteworthy observations about the disease pathology of cholera and yellow fever.
Though all the early TMA presidents worked hard, Dr. Smith was noticeably distinct. In the backdrop of harsh frontier life and widespread medical ignorance of the late 19th century, Dr. Smith was a clear victor — instrumental in the growth of the medical association and steadfast in the promotion of science.
Ashbel Smith Hall was torn down in the name of progress and will probably soon be forgotten as Austin’s skyline continues to evolve. But thanks in no small part to the efforts of Dr. Smith, TMA will endure in its continued commitment to improve the health of all Texans.
Last Updated On
March 28, 2018