Emmet V. Headlee was a fourth-generation physician; his great-grandfather, Elisha Headlee, was a civil war surgeon. His grandfather and father practiced medicine in Teague (Freestone Co.), and Emmet was born there in 1900. At age thirteen, he saved a friend from drowning, an act which earned a stipend from the Carnegie Hero Fund which helped pay for his college courses. He earned a Bachelor's degree from the University of Texas in 1922 and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Baylor University College of Medicine in 1926. While interning at St. Paul's Sanitarium in Dallas, Dr. Headlee met and married Marie Sprusil (b. 1900), a native of Cleveland, Ohio, and a registered nurse and certified nurse-anesthetist.175 Years of Texas Independence * 1836-2011
The young couple arrived in Odessa in Nov. 1926, and Dr. Headlee became the only doctor in a town which then numbered about 450 people. His first office was in the back of a drugstore, and the front rooms of the Headlees' first home were examination and operating rooms. Dr. Headlee became Ector County health officer and also served patients from throughout the region. He opened a seven-bed hospital in 1934, which expanded before 1949, when Medical Center Hospital opened with Dr. Headlee on staff. Near this site, the Headlees bought land for the animals which Dr. Headlee accepted as payment in lieu of cash during the Great Depression. In 1949, the couple built a house here. In 1957, in recognition of her long years of dedicated service in church and charitable work, Marie Headlee was named "First Lady of Odessa." The civic-minded Dr. Headlee was active in community, school and medical organizations until his death in 1965. Emmet and Marie Headlee provided great leadership to Odessa, which has become a major medical center in West Texas.
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