Dr. William M. Watts

Dr. William M. Watts (February 15, 1885 – ?) was a pioneering physician who opened the first hospital for African Americans not allowed medical treatment at other facilities in Oakland, California. The 22-bed Watts Hospital, located at 3437 Harlan Street, was established in 1926. Also provided by the hospital was training for African American nurses at the facility as other hospitals in Oakland would not train African American nurses.

Oakland Tribune columnist Delilah Beasley wrote about the grand opening of the North Oakland hospital in March 1926.

"Last Sunday afternoon was a history making day for the colored people of the city of Oakland, when their new modern fireproof hospital was opened to the public for inspection. It is located on Harlan street and contains 22 beds. The plans are in accordance to specifications required by the city of Oakland for such structures. It is a concrete building with every modern equipment and with hardwood floors throughout."

"Dr. Wm. Watts, the owner and builder, came to the state from Houston, Texas, about three and a half years ago. After spending one and a half years in travelling over the state decided that Oakland was the city of the grest possibilities." 1

In addition to operating the hospital, Dr. Watts penned a column How to Keep Well for the Oakland African American newspaper Western American. Watts also practiced medicine at his office located at 1191 - 36th Street. 1

Unfortunately, Dr. Watts' time in Oakland was cut short in 1928 by the death of his brother in Texas. Dr. Watts stayed to manage his brother's Sheppard-Watts Hospital located in Texas and never returned to Oakland. He continued his medical practice in Texas until his retirement in the late 1960s. Without the leadership of Dr. William Watts, the Watts Hospital in Oakland closed its doors. 1

Highland Hospital eventually integrated the nurses training program in 1928, eliminating the need for a separate African American hospital.

William Watts was married; his wife's name was Maggie and she was active in community organizations.

In searching for Dr. Watts' obituary in Texas for birth/death information, there is the following from the Marshall Public Library:

"[Sheppard-Watts Hospital and Nursing School in Marshall] A three-story brick building was the Sheppard- Watts Hospital and Nursing School which served the African-American community in Marshall. It was located at 606 S. Carter St. in the historic New Town Neighborhood. The hospital was constructed in 1925 by Dr. James R. Sheppard. It was later purchased and renovated by Dr. William Watts." 2

1930 census data shows William (45; physician) and Maggie U. (39) owning a home and living on Harlitan Road in Harrison County, Texas. This would make Maggie's birth approximately 1891.


3437 Harlan Street, Oakland, California

Links and References

  1. Blacks in Oakland: 1852 - 1987 by Donald Hausler 1987
  2. The Portal to Texas History