Color-Blind Care

Written by Douglas Towne Category: History Issue: April 2013
Group Free


Photos courtesy Douglas Towne

Dr. Winston C. Hackett’s arrival in Phoenix in 1916 wasn’t just a godsend for black patients who were often denied medical care in the segregated city – it was also a blessing for whites with socially stigmatized ailments.

 A native of Tyler, Texas and graduate of Meharry Medical College in Tennessee, Hackett specialized in obstetrics. With the assistance of his wife, Ayra, he practiced medicine and delivered newborns in their home for five years. After unsuccessfully lobbying for the creation of an African-American community hospital, he purchased the residence of former Territorial Governor Joseph Kibbey and opened the private Booker T. Washington Memorial Hospital at 1342 E. Jefferson St. in 1921. Initially, the hospital had only a few beds, each arranged on the home’s screened porch, but soon expanded to three adjoining lots, where six cottages were built for tuberculosis patients. Hackett opened a pharmacy nearby and recruited black nurses from Southern schools to join his staff.

Photos courtesy Douglas TowneIn 1927, the Arizona Republican called it “the finest and most completely equipped hospital owned and devoted to the welfare of colored people west of the Mississippi.” But Hackett’s 25-bed medical center served other races, too – people seeking more affordable health care and those who needed clandestine treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. Because of unpaid bills and Hackett’s failing eyesight, the hospital closed in 1943, reopening as the Winston Inn to accommodate black servicemen during World War II. Dr. Hackett died in 1949 at the age of 67, but his legacy lives on. “I still meet people who my father delivered,” says his daughter, 95-year-old Winstona Aldridge, who still lives in her father’s old hospital-home on Jefferson Street.