MATTHEWS, JULIUS BLACKBURNE (1896–1977). Julius Blackburne Matthews, African-American physician and educator, was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, on March 24, 1896, and raised by Charlie and Lizzie Prossie.
Matthews worked as a Pullman railroad porter and attended Wilberforce University in Ohio. Later he served in the United States Army in World War I. While still a young man, Matthews taught at a college in Arkansas and then one in North Carolina. In 1929, he earned his MD at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. He lived in Lafayette, Louisiana and practiced medicine there from 1930 to 1936.
In 1936, Dr. Matthews moved to Port Arthur, Texas. He married Helen Louise Bass. They had one child, daughter Julyette, in 1942.
Dr. Matthews was one of a group of four African-American doctors who were the first African-Americans admitted to membership in the Jefferson County Medical Society in 1956. The same four were also the first of their race permitted to join the medical staff at St. Mary’s Hospital in Port Arthur.
Dr. Matthews was active in many organizations. He was a Thirty-Third Degree Freemason in the Lakeshore Masonic Lodge No. 256, St. George Consistory, United Supreme Council. He also belonged to the Knights of Pythias, the Elks, and the American Legion. Dr. Matthews was a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, where he served as a special assistant to the vice-president. He also was a member of the Chi Delta Mu Honorary Medical Society. Dr. Matthews was an officer of the Southeast Texas Medical, Dental and Pharmaceutical Association and a member of the National Medical Association. He served on the board of directors of the Crippled Children Society, was a member of the American Cancer Society, and also was an honorary member of the Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce and the Port Arthur YMCA. He attended St. Paul’s United Methodist Church. He served on Port Arthur’s Equalization Board, the board of directors of the west side branch of the Gates Memorial Library, and several other important city boards.
Dr. Matthews was a community leader, sometimes speaking at building dedications and other public ceremonies. He was honored in February 1955 at groundbreaking ceremonies for an addition to the Carver Terrace public housing development. He conducted a well-baby clinic on Port Arthur’s west side for at least fourteen years. He also directed fundraising efforts for the March of Dimes in the same neighborhood. A street in Port Arthur was named in recognition of his service to the community. In 1962, when gubernatorial candidate John Connallyvisited Port Arthur and spoke at a large community meeting, Matthews served as master of ceremonies and directed the singing.
Dr. Julius Matthews died on May 16, 1977, at eighty-one years of age. He is buried in Port Arthur’s Live Oak Cemetery. In honor of him and his wife, Helen, and in recognition of their service to the community, the west side branch of Port Arthur’s Gates Memorial Library was renamed the Dr. Julius Blackburn and Helen Matthews Community Center.