Lubbock wasn't even his intended destination.
But Dr. M.C. Overton saw past the rough edges of the frontier settlement to the potential it held.
His vision was pivotal to both the development of the city and its current standing as a medical center. And his personal investments in Lubbock are relevant a century later.
Marvin Cartmell Overton was born in Morganfield, Ky., on June 13, 1878, the fifth of six children of George Buck and Sue Jane (Lawson) Overton, whose ancestral families had migrated from England to Virginia during the early colonial period, according to the biography written by Ernest Wallace in "Builders of the Southwest." Overton's father, a Methodist minister, moved the family to Louisville, Ky., in 1885.
The younger Overton left high school after two years to become a cub reporter and then worked at other odd jobs, including four years with Bell Telephone Company, before resigning to enter medical school, where he entertained the idea of setting up practice in Texas.
During the summer of 1901, while Overton was serving an internship at a Louisville hospital, the young doctor came to the Plains for a look.
Reflecting on the move in a 1936 Avalanche-Journal story, Overton said he left Louisville with a destination of Emma in Crosby County.
A classmate who was from Haskell had told Overton that the Plains area had a shortage of physicians. Overton wrote for information on various communities.
The editor of the Crosby County News responded, extolling the virtues of Old Emma, then the county seat of Crosby County.
But there were several stops on the road to Emma. First at the train station in Childress, the nearest railroad point, then by mail hack from there to Floydada, where he stayed briefly while waiting for his luggage. It was in Floydada that Overton met Dr. R.C. Andrews who, Overton said in The A-J article, "told me that what I had heard about Emma was much exaggerated."
Andrews was convinced that Lubbock, although located 110 miles from the nearest railroad and with only mail hacks and ranch wagons as the chief means of transportation, was to become "the" town of the Plains.
Overton arrived in Lubbock on April 16, 1901, looking quite out of place with his sideburns, moustache, Prince Albert split-tail coat and silk high top hat, which he lost the second day of his visit in a violent sandstorm. Yet he decided that upon completion of his internship, he would establish his practice in Lubbock.
He finished his internship and received his degree March 1902 from the University of Louisville School of Medicine and returned to Lubbock.
"From the first, Dr. Overton displayed a great devotion to duty, traveling by buggy as far as 150 miles across ranch country... ," Wallace wrote in "Builders of the Southwest."
For several years, Overton was the only doctor in town, having succeeded a Dr. Pharr who moved away shortly after Overton arrived. From then until 1906, he was the only licensed physician in the area. His practice encompassed 23 counties covering about 21,477 square miles with a population of 16,342, according to the Texas Tech Southwest Collection's files.
Overton performed his first surgery, an appendectomy, in 1907 on a kitchen table in a rented two-room house in Lubbock. The patient, a young ranchhand, was brought into town to the home, rented for the procedure and recovery.
He made house calls by horse and buggy until 1908 when he bought the first privately owned automobile in Lubbock.
Overton managed to stay in touch with his office while on rounds. The doctor carried a phone receiver with him that had a long wire attached to it. When he came to an overhead phone line, he would throw the wire across it so that he could contact the operator and check in with his office, saving on the miles traveled between patients, according to "A History of Lubbock," edited by Lawrence L. Graves, a former dean of Texas Tech's College of Arts and Sciences.
Although his early practice was from a room in the Nicolett Hotel, he soon moved to the back room of a pharmacy. He would eventually work in a succession of hospitals, some of which he helped build.
In 1908, Overton donated two lots, on the corner of what now is Main Street and Avenue O, for the construction of the city's first hospital, the Lubbock Sanitarium, established by Drs. J.N. Stoops and G.S. Murphy. The facility closed in April 1912.
By 1909, a host of other physicians had established practices in Lubbock and attempts were made to start local hospitals. Overton and Dr. Charles F. Clayton opened the second Lubbock Sanitarium in September 1912 at the original sanitarium site. The next year, the duo dissolved their partnership with Clayton keeping the Lubbock Sanitarium, while Overton opened his own hospital, the Overton Sanitarium.
In 1917, Overton and a Dr. Wagner moved into a newly constructed, three-story brick facility, built by Mayor C.E. Parks, at present-day 10th Street and Texas Avenue, and named the facility West Texas Sanitarium.
He abandoned general practice in 1925 to specialize in pediatrics at Lubbock Sanitarium. His affiliation with that group made him part of a facility that would evolve in 1953 as the nine-story Methodist Hospital, the forerunner of today's Covenant Hospital.
Throughout his medical career his trademark was a pink carnation worn in his lapel. His daughter, Nan Overton West, authored a biography titled "He Wore a Pink Carnation." He explained that the flower made a bright spot in a sick room and provided a conversation piece when he saw patients.
His concern for Lubbock extended far beyond the health of its residents.
He served on the initial council of alderman for the city from 1909 to 1910.
He also served on the Lubbock school board from 1910 to about 1925. An elementary school is named for him.
A century later, his most recognizable contribution is undergoing a rebirth. In 1907, he established the first residential addition to the city, the Overton Addition, on 640 acres of land bordered by Fourth and 19th streets and Avenue Q and University Avenue.
His goal was to develop a community on affordable land adjacent to the new city's downtown area. At one time, the Overton area was considered high society and housed many of Lubbock's prominent families.
The Overton neighborhood became a natural bridge in 1925 between newly formed Texas Technological College, immediately west of the area, and downtown Lubbock to the east.
Much of the area is being renovated today by the McDougal family and has been named Overton Park in recognition of the doctor's contributions to the city.
His personal motto was "To serve others as much as possible and say or do nothing to cause any harm to anyone."
Upon his death in 1955, The A-J eulogized him as "...always the healer, he had the gentleness of spirit, but the courage of a lion."
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