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Baylor’s roots run deep in Dallas. Waco underestimated how deep.
By A.E. McGill |

HAD THE SALE OF BAYLOR HEALTH gone through, the loss would have been particularly strong for Dallas. In its ninety-plus years, the hospital system has been supported by and linked with the city’s people.

What became Baylor Hospital began in 1903 as an answer to prompting by Dr. George W. Truett. the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas. A compelling and spontaneous preacher, Truett’s charisma helped him create ties with influential leaders in Dallas of all denominations. “Is it not now the time to begin the erection of a great humanitarian hospital,” Truett challenged, “one to which men of all creeds or those of none may come with equal confidence?”

Col. Christopher Columbus Slaughter, a tabled cattleman and devout Baptist, was the first to respond. The primary benefactor of the hospital. Slaughter gave a total of $200,000 to the new Texas Baptist Memorial Sanitarium that was completed in 1909. (In 1921, the Sanitarium was renamed Baylor Hospital to emphasize its relationship with Baylor University in Waco and then later renamed Baylor University Hospital before becoming Baylor Health Care System.) Dallas businessman J.B. Wilson, builder of the downtown Wilson Building, gave $50,000 to supplement Slaughter’s original gift.

Since then. Dallas leaders have donated money as Baylor has continued to expand, and the hospital has become inextricably associated with the city. A list of Baylor’s significant contributors reads like a roll call of historic Dallasites.

Karl Hoblitzelle, show business entrepreneur and builder of the Majestic Theater, adopted Texas as his home state and philanthropy as his mission. In 1968, one year after Hoblitzelle’s death, the Hoblitzelle Foundation donated $500,000 in 1968 in honor of him and his wife, Esther. That same year, the Women’s and Children’s Hospital was renamed the Karl and Esther Hoblitzelle Hospital.

Former Dallas mayor Erik Jonsson and his wife, Margaret, generously contributed $] million, facilitating the 200-bed Erik and Margaret Jonsson Medical and Surgical Hospital that opened in 1970.

In 1972, the 300-bed Carr P. Collins Hospital was created. Over the years, Carr P. Collins Sr., a Dallas businessman in insurance, investments, manufacturing and real estate, gave more than $2 million to Baylor. The Collins family, including his son, former Congressman Jim Collins, continues to donate large sums of money through the Carr P. Collins Foundation.

Dallas banker and real estate developer A. Webb Roberts provided an endowment of $1 million in memory of his mother Georgia Coggins Roberts. The A. Webb Roberts Center for Continuing Education was unveiled in 1972.

Construction of the Baylor Medical Plaza was completed in 1973. The twin towers are named in honor of J.K. and Susie L. Wadley of Texarkana and Albert S. and Velma Barnett, who gave substantial gifts.

The H.L. and Ruth Hunt Heart Center, made possible by a substantial gift from Hunt Oil company and members of the family of the late H.L. Hunt, was founded in 1977.

Also in 1977, Baylor opened the Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center, an outpatient facility. Businessman Charles A. Sammons ranks as the largest single contributor in Medical Center History. Through donations and endowments, his contributions are estimated at more than $15 million.

In i 978, the Baylor Health Care System Foundation was established with the explicit purpose of raising and managing charitable funds for the Health Care System’s mission of quality patient care, medical education, research and community service.

The first chairman of the foundation board was Herman W. Lay. While Lay was CEO of Frito-Lay and a member of the Baylor Board of Trustees, he and his wife gave 5350,000, making possible an expansion of the Medical Center’s Radiology Department. Ward Lay, Herman’s son, is the current chairman and has donated more than SI million.

Other recent, considerable contributions include a challenge gift of $2 million from oilman Louis A. Beechral Jr. and an excess of $5 million from Hannah Davis-Seeger and the Seeger family.

Since its inception, the Baylor Health Care System Foundation’s endowment has grown from $5 million to its current level of $230 million, including both current assets and future expectancies. The foundation has given back to Baylor Health Care System approximately $85 million.

While prominent families have routinely signed the six-figure checks that make the elaborate construction feasible and the expensive equipment affordable, they aren’t the only ones to show appreciation for the medical center. Others from throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area contribute regularly, if on a less extravagant level. There are currently 12,000 active donors, including individuals, corporations and foundations. “These people give for the good of the city,” says Charlie Cooper, executive vice president of the foundation. “For some people, five or ten dollars is as much as they can give. We value those. too.”