Medical Care for All Races: Phoenix’s Booker T. Washington Memorial Hospital

by Douglas C. Towne
History Douglas C. Towne February 16, 2023

Health care for African Americans was transformed when Dr. Winston C. Hackett, the state’s first Black physician, moved to Phoenix in 1916. Hackett passed the Arizona medical board examination and started a practice specializing in obstetrics oriented toward African Americans who were often denied medical care elsewhere in the segregated city.

The Tyler, Texas native had graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of San Francisco and took additional coursework at Meharry Medical College in Nashville. With the assistance of his wife, Ayra, Hackett practiced medicine from an office on the 2nd floor of the Ellis Building at Second Avenue and Monroe Street in Downtown Phoenix.

After unsuccessfully lobbying for an African-American community hospital to be constructed, Hackett remodeled a building at 1342 E. Jefferson St. for $12,000. He reopened it as the private Booker T. Washington Memorial Hospital in 1921.

Booker T. Washington Hospital. (Photo: Winstona Aldridge)

The hospital was named for the African-American educator who founded Tuskegee University in Alabama, where Hackett attended college. Many of the hospital’s furnishings were obtained through donations, according to an article in The Arizona Republican in 1922. Phoenicians of all races who assisted in its creation were invited to attend its grand opening.

The medical facility accommodated 20 patients in the hospital and six tuberculosis cottages, which were later built on three adjoining lots. Hackett opened a pharmacy nearby and recruited Black nurses from Southern schools to join the hospital’s staff.

In 1925, Dr. and Mrs. Hackett moved to former Territorial Governor Joseph Kibbey’s residence at 1334. E. Jefferson St., located next door to the hospital. After three years of operation, Hackett reported that the hospital had treated 333 patients. “This is an institution of sincere, efficient service to the community—the finest and most completely equipped hospital…” stated an advertisement in The Arizona Republican in 1926. “The hospital consists of a main building, equipped with every modern device for the treatment and comfort of patients, operating rooms, and wards; also comfortably furnished cottages for the treatment of tubercular patients.”

Dr. Hackett and nurses at the hospital. (Photo: Winstona Aldridge)

Although the hospital mainly treated Black patients, Hackett’s medical center also served those of other races who sought health care at more affordable prices than other hospitals offered.

In 1929, Hackett’s wife, Ayra, founded The Arizona Gleam, the first Black newspaper in Arizona. She died from pneumonia three years later, in 1932.

Hackett continued running the hospital until it closed in 1943 because of financial troubles and his failing eyesight. He donated its medical equipment to Saint Monica’s Hospital, later renamed Phoenix Memorial Hospital.

The former hospital building reopened as the Winston Inn to accommodate Black servicemen during World War II, and was later demolished. Hackett died in 1949 at 67, having made a vital contribution to local health care.