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Dr. Robert Bernstein Chairman of the Health Commission poses with a photo of Dr. Robert Rutherford

Robert Rutherford was born in Columbus, Georgia, and attended the University of Georgia. He studied medicine and later completed his training in the Medical Department of the University of New York.

He served in the Confederate War and was imprisoned for 12 months in Fort Delaware, Alton, Illinois.

Following the Civil War, he settled in Wharton County in 1866, and began to practice medicine. Then he moved to Brazoria.

In 1871, he moved to Houston. While serving as health officer in Houston, an out break of yellow fever occurred in New Orleans in 1878. At the request of Dr. J.M. Ross of Brenham, who feared that the epidemic would spread to Texas, Dr. Rutherford suggested a conference of health authorities. At this conference the suggestion was made and adopted that one man should be placed in charge of quarantine enforcement.

When legislation passed, Dr. Robert Rutherford was that man. On April 10, 1879, the State Legislature authorized the appointment of a State Health Officer which created the first State Health Department in Texas. Dr. Rutherford was appointed by Governor O.M. Roberts for a term of two years. He was reappointed in 1885 and again in 1887 to serve additional terms.


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