THE END AND THE BEGINNING (1940-1945)
In the years immediately following World War II, petrochemical industries were installed along the Houston Ship Channel in terms of hundreds of millions of dollars. These have steadily expanded, while new plants continue to be located throughout the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast area. Chemical experts have said that the chemical industry is its own best customer, and we sought to develop this in a way that the waste material of one plant could become the raw material of another, and the by-product of one plant might become the raw material for another. These intermediates, manufactured in abundance along the Gulf Coast, are still an important key to our industrial future, more especially as the fabrication of consumer products is expanded. The petrochemical business basically consists of upgrading hydrocarbons from petroleum and natural gas into a variety of increasingly important chemical products.
For many years, Texas has ranked first in the nation in new chemical plant construction, and "Time Magazine" has termed the Gulf Coast as the "Golden Crescent" where 75 percent of the nation’s chemical-producing facilities are located. In a scant quarter of a century, the industry has grown from little more than a whiff of waste gases in chemists’ test tubes to a multi-billion-dollar industry. Petrochemicals now reach into almost every phase of modern living and account for about 60 percent of all the sales of chemicals and allied products.
One of the reasons that the Gulf Coast surpassed other areas in petrochemical production is its location within easy pipeline reach of 60 percent of the nation’s petroleum reserves and 67 percent of the natural gas reserves. Evidence of this and of the close cooperation between competitors in the chemical industry is found in the vast network of pipelines in the Houston area carrying natural gas, crude oil, and petrochemicals between and among plants to such an extent that it has become known as the "Spaghetti Bowl." Through this maze of pipelines, multitudes of raw materials and products flow between wells, salt domes, refineries and chemical plants.
Petrochemicals continue to be an important growth factor for the Houston-area economy. While other areas have become more competitive in the production and transmission of raw materials, we have steadily increased the potential inherent in our human resources. Today all of our major banks, utilities, transportation companies, industrial realtors and industrial districts have specialists in industrial development and are active in prospect development and negotiations. Thus the Houston area is one of steadily expanding industrial payrolls and production, is becoming more diversified in its manufacturing, and is improving its national ranking in most of the major manufacturing groups.
Within a quarter of a century, Houston has moved from a position of deficiency in hospital facilities to that as one of the nation’s most vital and significant centers of medical accomplishment. The history of this achievement is an outstanding record of the teamwork of individuals and agencies in building for the public welfare. The Texas Medical Center is more than a symbol of medical progress. It is a community achievement that stands as a monument to the vision, hard work and generosity of many people. While it was designed for humanitarian purposes, it has also become an important factor in the economic life of Houston.
Since the Chamber of Commerce has worked very closely through the years with all those who have had major roles in the development of the Medical Center, I have had a very deep and continuing interest in this program. Credit for this achievement must be widely shared—the M. D. Anderson Foundation, the Hermann Estate, the University of Texas, Hugh Roy and Lillie Cullen, Baylor University College of Medicine, Jesse H. Jones, and the medical profession of Harris County. Even this only introduces the list. There have been many individuals who caught the vision of the Center and who devoted a great deal of time and talent in their dedication to this objective—Colonel W. B. Bates, Colonel George A. Hill, Jr., Dr. E. W. Bertner, Dr. Fred C. Elliott, Dr. Claud C. Cody II, W. S. Bellows, Dr. R. Lee Clark, Jr., W. Leeland Anderson, Leon Jaworski, and many, many others.
The development of the Texas Medical Center is a prime example of creating a community opportunity while working out a solution for a community problem. In 1903, when the Harris County Medical Society was formed, Houston had 65 doctors and one hospital to serve a population of 64,000. Some thirty years later, Houston had only a dozen hospitals, with 350 doctors caring for a population of 360,000. By 1965, 2,000 doctors were practicing in a metropolitan area of 1,750,000, while the investment in medical facilities had soared to approximately $200,000,000, with medical education, research and practice meeting the highest standards of the profession.
The need for expanded hospital facilities had been recognized so long that when plans for a medical center began to take tangible form in 1942, President W. S. Cochran of the Chamber of Commerce said: "This brings to a happy conclusion a project which has been very close to the heart of the Houston Chamber of Commerce for a number of years." During those days of ambitious but war-clouded planning, it could not be recognized that what had been projected was but a beginning and not a conclusion.
In the spring of 1941, the State Legislature appropriated a half million dollars for a state cancer program to be administered by the University of Texas. Under the leadership of Colonel Bates, the trustees of the M. D. Anderson Foundation gave the University another half million dollars, and the Board of Regents of the University on March 27, 1942, announced that the million-dollar facility would be located in Houston. From this beginning, the Texas Medical Center was planned around the pooling of interests by many independent institutions, wholly independent in management, but cooperating in many ways for an effective medical center. The arrangement of thorough cooperation, coupled with complete autonomy, has resulted in a maximum of flexibility and a maximum of efficiency.
Colonel Bates, in March, 1942, solicited the support of the Chamber of Commerce for a proposal to acquire a site for the Medical Center from the City of Houston in an area south of Hermann Park. The Chamber of Commerce supported the proposal in a successful election in November, 1943, when the people of Houston authorized the City to sell to the M. D. Anderson Foundation the 134-acre tract of land that had been selected for the Center, and the purchase was consummated by the Foundation in 1944. In August, 1942, President Homer P. Rainey of the University of Texas announced that the University would seek legislative approval to take over and operate the Texas Dental College, which had operated in Houston since 1905, and make it a part of the Medical Center.
Again Colonel Bates met with the Executive Committee of the Chamber of Commerce on May 4, 1943, to propose that the Baylor University College of Medicine be moved to Houston and located in the Medical Center. Another step in the development of the Medical Center program was taken when a site was provided for a United States Naval Hospital near the Medical Center site. In this step-by-step way, the Medical Center moved from the enthusiastic state of ambitious dreams to blueprints, architects’ drawings, and finally to contracts for construction.
To help secure the location of the Baylor University College of Medicine, the Chamber of Commerce raised $500,000 from the commercial, industrial and professional interests of the community. Then when the United States Navy decided to build a hospital, which has since become a part of the Veterans Administration, the Chamber of Commerce raised $223,000 to provide a site in Houston.
In 1945 plans were made for the Chamber of Commerce to raise corporate funds locally to help finance the construction of the University of Texas units in the Medical Center. Warren S. Bellows headed a committee to conduct the drive for these funds. In May, 1946, Mr. Bellows said: " Today, one of Houston’s greatest opportunities knocks at its door. Plans have been well laid to create a health-building plant on the 134-acre site already secured adjacent to Hermann Park. A campaign is now under way to raise funds to aid in the construction of the four major medical institutions that will constitute the University of Texas projects in the Center. The vision that wise and thoughtful men had yesterday is Houston’s opportunity today. Let us grasp it firmly and from yesterday’s vision and today’s opportunity create better health and happier living for this area’s tomorrow."
When the leadership of Houston met on February 28, 1946, for a dedicatory dinner for the Texas Medical Center, Colonel Hill termed the center "a vital and dynamic humanitarian organization," and praised "those who made it possible", including George H. Hermann, Monroe D. Anderson, and Hugh Roy and Lillie Cullen.
The campaign of the Chamber of Commerce was successful in raising approximately $1,000,000, and the vision of the Medical Center grew until we were talking in terms of a $100,000,000 complex. While legislative authorization was being sought to start construction on the University of Texas facilities, other work was under way. Beginning with the Baylor University College of Medicine, formally dedicated in 1948, the Medical Center has been the scene of continuous construction. The new Hermann Hospital and the first unit of the 14-story Hermann Professional Building were both opened in 1949.
Governor Allan Shivers was honored at a dinner meeting in Houston on September 8, 1949. In his address, he requested that a committee of business men be appointed to study the appropriations requests to be made by the state institutions located in Houston and to submit its findings to him prior to the special session of the State Legislature early in 1950. Gus S. Wortham was appointed chairman of this committee, and I worked with it as secretary. The American Institute of Architects, the Associated General Contractors, and the Texas Society of Professional Engineers furnished technical advisers for the committee. In the final report, made on January 19, 1950, recommendations were made for the M. D. Anderson Hospital for Cancer Research, the University of Texas School of Dentistry, and the Texas State University for Negroes. The committee advised the governor of its belief that the study had been made in a thoroughgoing way, that its technical advice had been qualified and unbiased, and that the recommendations thus submitted could be fully supported by the committee.
The governor incorporated the committee’s recommendations in his program and they received legislative approval. Then, in 1951, the Methodist Hospital opened the first unit of its new building, and the Arabia Temple Crippled Children’s Clinic was opened the following year. The M. D. Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute, a new name adopted at the time, moved into its new building in 1954, and nearby the University’s Dental Branch was completed the next year. Also in 1954, the Texas Children’s Hospital and the St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital were completed, as was the Jesse H. Jones Building housing the Medical Center Library and the offices of a number of organizations.
The Texas Medical Center Board has the primary responsibility for the over-all development and coordination of the Medical Center. In order to bring about essential cooperation and coordination among the Center’s institutions, a Covenant Agreement was developed to require all of them to accept certain responsibilities and restrictions in regard to their relationships with other institutions in the Center. With the continued support and leadership of the M. D. Anderson Foundation and through the coordination and direction of the Texas Medical Center Board, significant progress has been made in attracting the institutions necessary to comprise a comprehensive Medical Center. Modern physical facilities have been planned and constructed, with an ever-increasing number of highly qualified personnel joining the staffs of the institutions in the Medical Center. With the expansion of facilities and staffs, there has also been continuing expansion in the research undertakings. The total staff, full-time and part-time, in all the institutions is approaching 10,000. Total investments are already well beyond the $100,000,000 originally forecast, with many additional millions in projects that are already in progress.
To the traditional essentials of human life of food, clothing and shelter must now be added water and air since the shortage of water in many areas and the potential pollution of air and water have made us conscious that both are vitally essential to our well being. In recent years the problems of waste disposal and pollution are generally discussed, but in 1942 when the Houston Chamber of Commerce first started alerting the people of this area to these potential threats, the subject was somewhat new. At that time an entire issue of the "Houston Magazine" was devoted to the matter.
By the end of 1945, the matter was beginning to make news. An industrial- and sanitary-waste pollution survey was made by Harris County in cooperation with the State Health Department. This survey showed that municipalities were the principal contributors of pollution to the Ship Channel. The Chamber of Commerce adopted the elimination of pollution from area bayous as a major objective, and started working quietly with municipal authorities for improvements in sewage-disposal facilities and to prevent further connection of sewer lines with storm sewers.
A short time later, the heads of Ship Channel industries were called into a meeting to acquaint them with the over-all situation and to solicit their cooperation in a pollution-abatement program. Industries agreed to survey their own waste disposal and to take every possible step they could to correct any disposal problems. They responded promptly to this agreement.