Mathis Wilholte Blackstock

(1925-2012)

 

Mathis Wilhoite Blackstock, M.D., was born on February 16, 1925, in Dallas, Texas to Leo Guy (1899-1972) and Harriet L. Barrickman (1901-90) Blackstock. Matt’s paternal grandparents, Rabun A. and Pearl Mathis Blackstock, had both come to Parker County, Texas, from Georgia. They were farm people. Leo, the eldest son, enrolled in the University of Texas and earned a BA in economics in 1923, an MBA in 1925 and a J.D. degree from the University of Texas Law School in 1933. Harriet had earned a BA in Journalism in 1923. During Matt’s early years, his father was teaching full time while studying for his law degree and then working for the Railroad Commission as a lawyer. In 1941, his father went on active duty. During WWII, Leo served in the Pacific Theater, where he participated in the New Guinea campaign of 1944, the initial invasion of the Philippines at Leyte in 1944, and the Mindanao campaign in 1945. He was assigned from October 1945 to November 1946 to the occupation forces in Japan, where he was chief of the prosecution division, legal section, of the Supreme Command of the Allied Powers in Tokyo and was in charge of the prosecution of Japanese war criminals (classes B and C). Following his return to the U.S., Leo rejoined the UT College of Business Administration as professor of business law. He was also appointed visiting professor of military law in the UT Law School.

Matt and his brother David spent much time with their grandparents, the Blackstocks and their maternal grandparents, Wilhoite and Hallie T. Barrickman (1870-1939). Matt cherished greatly his time with his maternal grandmother and credits her with many of the values he held throughout his life. Hallie is shown at left.

In Matt’s early years he was very active in scouting, achieving Eagle Scout status. His grandmother Barrickman was an outdoor person. She led Scout and Campfire groups. She taught him how to collect mushrooms. Matt is standing at table in photo below.

 

Matt went to Woolridge School, Austin Junior High and Austin High. During the public schools’ transition form 11 years to 12, Matt skipped a year and graduated in 1942. Following graduation Matt enrolled in UT Summer School. He was in the Alpha Phi Omega, the honorary scouting fraternity at UT and Phi Eta Sigma, an honorary scholastic fraternity for freshman men. His early interest in medicine is indicated by his membership in Alpha Epsilon Delta, the Honorary Pre-Medical Fraternity. (1944 Alpha Epsilon Delta Fraternity Picture below, Matt is 2nd Row, 3rd from right.)

 

 

 

During his undergraduate years at UT, Matt was in the Navy V-12 training program. With support from the Navy and income from odd jobs, he graduated from the University of Texas Medical School at Galveston in 1948 at the age of 23 “debt free.” This was possible due to the pre-med program at UT being reduced from 3 to 2 years to expedite the production of doctors for the war effort.

 

1948 Cactus yearbook photo.

During a four-month hiatus from medical school, Matt worked and lived with Dr. James M. Balknight and his family in Ganado, TX. The family was worried about Matt’s social life and invited a group of young women from the nearby teacherage to their house for a party. According to Matt, “I took one look at the tall brunette and it was love at first sight.” The next year he married Mary Landry in Abbeville, LA.

Matt and Mary spent a week in Mexico City. This was during the first year of their marriage. Matt is shown here in his Navy uniform in Chapultepec Park. After their week, Mary went back home to Lafayete, LA, and Matt went to Korea where he served in a Navy hospital.

 

He interned at Hermann Hospital in Houston and served as a Navy doctor on service with the Army during the Korean War. From 1950-51, he served as a Navy doctor in Kobe, Japan. There he was responsible for the care of non-commission officers’ wives. Their complaining taught him how to listen to patients. While Matt was in Japan, Mary worked in a doctor’s office back in her home town of Lafayette, LA. Following his war service, Mathis held a general practice residency at the University of Colorado in Denver, and had a private practice in Kerrville, Texas. He returned to Austin in 1954 to practice family medicine, starting in private practice with Dr. Sigman Hayes. Hayes, twelve years his senior, had been his high school biology teacher at Austin High. They graduated from Galveston Medical School in the same class.

 

 

 

In 1931, his grandmother Barrickman brought Matt and his brother David to the Congregational Church of Austin. He became a lifelong member of the church where he served in many capacities. Matt was actively involved in the creation of “The Raft” in the church basement which provided overnight stay for runaway teenagers. The only condition imposed was the teenager must call their parents at church expense. They were not required to reveal their location. The churches motives were obvious.

In 1970, Matt guided the church through its participation in the establishment of the People’s Community Clinic, again in the basement. Volunteer doctors and nurses provided care for many who fell through the cracks in the health safety network.

 

Matt was a long time choir member. He also sang in the Austin Chorus. A stained-glass window in the church was dedicated to him in 2011. His window is located next to a window dedicated by the church to his much loved grandmother, Hallie Barrickman. Matt is back row left end in choir photo.

From 1974 to 1980, Matt treated patients at the City of Austin's Rosewood Zaragosa Clinic. In 1978, he became Associate Director of the Family Practice Residency program at Brackenridge Hospital, which operates the Family Health Center, renamed the Blackstock Family Health Center in 1991. Although he retired that year from active practice, he continued his association with the Blackstock Family Health Center for the rest of his life.

Matt was well known for his efforts to teach doctors how to be doctors. In 2007, The Texas Academy of Family Physicians honored Matt. Details of this award are described in the press release at the end of this page. In 1981, Matt was named “Physician of the Year” at what is now UMC Brackenridge.

On July 3, 2012, Matt died, as he wished, at home. He is survived by his wife Mary Landry Blackstock, son Greg Blackstock of Austin, daughter and son-in-law, Kathryn and Daniel Gitlin of Santa Fe, New Mexico, daughter and son-in-law Clare and James Sprinkle of Austin, brother and sister-in-law David and Marjorie Blackstock of Austin, four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

(Matt, Mary, Greg, Kathryn and Clare are shown at right.)

A memorial service was held Saturday, July 7, 2012, at the First Unitarian Universalist Church at 4700 Grover Avenue followed by a reception. There were over 300 people in attendance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At left is Mary and Matt, at right is Matt in his first car.

(Information in this entry came from Mel Oakes, David Blackstock, Matt’s brother, and interviews with Matt by Pat Oakes. Thanks to Matt’s nephew, Stephen Blackstock, and Pat Oakes for supplying photographs.)

 

Article about Matt from the Austin American Statesman:

Much-loved Austin family practice doctor, clinic namesake, dies.
Dr. Mathis Blackstock: 1925-2012

By Mary Ann Roser, Austin American Statesman, July 4, 2012

A much-loved Austin doctor for whom a longtime family clinic is named died Tuesday of melanoma that had spread. Dr. Mathis Blackstock was 87.

Until about two weeks ago, he remained involved with former patients, doctors and residents (physicians-in-training) at the Blackstock Family Health Center and was planning to lecture residents on facing a terminal illness. He died before he could.

"He was the type of doctor that patients would gravitate to. He knew medicine very, very well, but at the same time, he was interested in what you were going through and what you needed. And it wasn't just you as an individual; he took care of your whole family," said Dr. David Wright, who knew Blackstock for nearly 40 years and practiced with him for about 30. "He, more than anybody else that has been associated with the training programs, taught all of us ... how to be doctors."

“Residents this year who completed a family practice training program that Blackstock developed at University Medical Center Brackenridge, where his namesake clinic is located, gave him a plaque expressing their gratitude,” said Blackstock's widow, Mary. The plaque lauds "his many years as our dedicated teacher, mentor and role model who has shown us all what it means to share wisdom, kindness and compassion."

“Patients over the years would call Blackstock at home asking for help, Mary Blackstock said.

Many of them were poor and minority — the kind of patients Blackstock set out to serve back in the 1970s, when he helped found a clinic at the San Jose Catholic Church in South Austin, Wright said.

Blackstock also was intensely interested in geriatric health care and played a key role in creating the Austin Groups for Elderly programs. "We had a hell of a lot of fun, too," his wife added.

Dr. Dana Sprute, director of the UT Southwestern Austin Family Medicine Residency Program, said Blackstock's long devotion to physician education is a "tremendous legacy. The faculty, residents and graduates of our program hope to continue to honor his memory through our practice of medicine and in our reflection of the values Dr. Blackstock practiced every day: those of compassion, empathy and advocacy, particularly for the most vulnerable members of our community," Sprute said in a statement.

A graduate of the University of Texas and the UT Medical Branch at Galveston, Blackstock was honored by the Texas Academy of Family Physicians in 2007 and was named Physician of the Year at what is now UMC Brackenridge in 1981, according to the Seton Healthcare Family, the hospital's operator.

He was among the physician educators who helped pave the way for others to "dream about having a free-standing medical school at the University of Texas," Wright said. Such a proposal is being championed today by state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin.

"Every day I've been to work for 30 years or so, he's been around," Wright said. "And now I'm dealing with the fact he's not going to be here anymore."

The funeral for Blackstock, who had three children with his wife of 63 years, will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, 4700 Grover Ave.

—Eulogies from Matt Blackstock’s Memorial Service, July 7, 2012—

Eulogy by Rev. Bill Phillips

If each one of us could supply a single brush stroke, we might be able to construct a reasonable image of Matt Blackstock. Alas, I have only one brush stroke, but I take comfort that you have yours.

Matt’s presence was felt in such a personal manner that each person who knew him felt that they were the only one who knew him in just that way.
I knew Matt as a man who attended the same church. He had listened to several of my sermons, shared thoughts in the morning Bible study, and was a fellow participant in working for peace and social service activates. Over 35 years, we had grown older in one another’s presence. He was to me that man whom the writer Joseph Conrad calls “the secret sharer of my thoughts.” People who knew him thought of him this way.

He was very much the other man in the room—one whom I could go to for just about anything. Matt was objective, but not critical. He expected the best and gave one the feeling that one was capable of achieving the best. When I went to any gathering where he might be present, I always looked for Matt. It was like looking to see if the light had been turned on.

What was that light? It was not the weight of academic importance, the prestige of being a doctor or a figure of social prominence. If I might put it in the lingo of my friends in the Texas Panhandle, Matt was as ordinary as a bar of soap. Matt’s distinct voice: soft, very personal and to the point, was a reminder of those times when people had large front porches, when people did not have to talk above air conditioners and television; an earlier time, when people listened and shared the substance of their day. Matt was a call to that soft voice within each of us.

His presence represented a unique duality— a tension between kindness and firmness, meekness and boldness, forbearance and expectancy.
What was so unusual about him was that he wanted to reach for and achieve extraordinary things.

He would address you in that even manner where each word seemed to wait for you to come back to it. Almost always, it was about you. It sometimes came as a surprise that he took you more seriously than you took yourself.

As a boy, I avoided a lot of trouble and achieved occasional moments of success by having a pantheon of persons who watched over me: my parents and grandmother, my teachers, certain writers, and many sports heroes — Joe DiMaggio and Joe Louis, in particular. Even now, I do something like this with various individuals whom I want to be like and even to become.

Matt has been one of these people. He was a warm and reassuring presence. He was a reminder of the reason why we try hard. His approval was of great importance.

Hence, I was complemented very much when Matt called me on the phone and asked me to come to his house to discuss his eulogy. As we sat in his porch we talked like we always did. The conversation was unhurried, though the process of his disease was moving along at its determined pace.

The eulogy became a conversation between his life and the fact of his inevitable death, the known and the known—a reaching forward; and now, a reaching back.

As we thought through the matter of preparing his eulogy, I was momentarily put off balance, when Matt said, “Of course, I won’t be there to hear it.” It was his way of reminding me of his reality, but also a way of letting me know that we need not treat death as if it is something that is not supposed to happen.

I was led in thought to another Matt, a 13-year-old poet named Mattie Stepanik, who died in 2004. He had a rapidly terminal form of multiple dystrophy – the same genetic disease that had taken his brothers just a few years before. Mattie often said that he believed that there was no line between his present life and the experience he would have after death, and that he had no choice but to live with both realities. This slight and sickly little boy strove to make the most of every moment and to appreciate every part of his time while he was living. He wrote five books of poetry that became The New York Times best sellers. His purpose, he explained, was to help people find their “heart songs.” He viewed his own poems as his heart songs. These would be the way a young child would respond to such immeasurable and subjective moods as joy, affection, and pleasure.

When I mentioned this to Matt, he would not let me get away with a poetic analogy. He wanted an explanation of what I meant by “heart songs.”
Mattie Stepanic explained it this way:

“I have a song, deep in my heart, and only I can hear it.
If I close my eyes and sit very still
it is so easy to listen to my song.

If I take time and listen very hard,
I can still hear my heart song.

It makes me feel happy,
Happier than ever. Happier than everywhere
and everything and everyone in the world.

Happy like thinking about Going to Heaven when I die.
My heart song goes like this-
I love you! I love you! How happy can you be!
How happy can you make this whole world be!

And sometimes it's other
Tunes and words, too.
But it always sings the same special song.

But do you know what?
All people have a special song inside their hearts!
Everyone in the whole world has a special heart song.”

Though Dr. Matt had accepted the empirical tools of his scientific studies and respected their place, in the framing of his religious life I always suspected that matters of the heart set his purpose and directed his calling — a call to one’s humanity. The Gospel of Luke is often called the “healthiest” gospel because of its consideration for the feelings of people. And Jesus’ teachings of the Luke Gospel are said to reflect the teaching of “the ‘kind’ Jesus.”

Matt was a doctor of medicine, the same as the purported writer of the New Testament Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. We see in these accounts of the story of Jesus and the first steps of the early church a warmth and a very human emphasis; in such parables as the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, the unifying power of Pentecost and the practical transformation of the organizational issues that took the followers of Jesus beyond the cross.

The physician’s touch and caring heart are very much in place in this telling of the Jesus story, regardless of who wrote the account.

The presence of Matt Blackstock had an undeniable influence upon us: we are very healthy because of him.

Eulogy by Greg Futch

I first met Dr. Matt Blackstock when I joined the Congregational Church of Austin about 6 years ago (about 2006). When I was still visiting the church, we struck up a conversation more than once. I came to admire and respect Matt, and we found we had some things in common. He loved nature and music, and so did I. We both had relatives in Georgia. There was also some mutual interest in health care issues, my mother having been a nurse, and there being a doctor or two in my extended family.

Not long after I’d joined the church, Matt approached me about serving on one of the boards of the church, or as the historian. Easygoing as Matt was, he persuaded me to become a deacon. His own love for, and dedication to, the congregation came through in our discussions. Perhaps a year later, another member of the church and I decided to form a men’s group, so I announced our intentions in the Sunday service. Matt walked up to me afterwards and said he wanted to be part of the group. We were very happy to have him.

Over the 6 years that I knew Matt, we had many good conversations. I talked to him at length about his medical career, about family, and about the clinic named for him at Brackenridge Hospital. Matt had a real sense of humor, and I remember several stories from him which made me laugh. He said that in his early years as a GP, there were far fewer specialists. So a family physician like him had to learn some simple surgeries. One of his mentors was showing him a particular procedure, and commented,

“Matt, you should never attempt this surgery until you’ve already performed it twice!!”

There were quite a few other humorous stories like that, some of which I might not want to relate in polite company!!

Some of our conversations focused on spirituality and religion, subjects dear to my own heart. At one point, I asked Matt about prayer. My question went something like this:

“Matt, what is your experience of prayer? Do you think anything is happening there?”

And he replied: “I feel like I am being heard.” I thought that was a fine answer, so I followed it up, with another inquiry: “So does anything change, or is there a consequence of prayer?” And he said that he felt prayer, first of all, changed him. Whatever else it changed, he wasn’t sure. I find these two responses to be both simple and profound.

I have to hurry some in my remarks. Matt was very clear in his instructions to me. He said, “Greg, I want this service to keep moving. So keep your comments short --- about 5 minutes!!”

So I’ll wrap up these reflections with a short passage which was read at my father’s funeral. This is from Psalm 116: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”

So finally I would say: Fair sailing, Dr. Matt. The world is a better place because of your life and your legacy.

 

Eulogy by Dr. David Blackstock

I’m David Blackstock, Mathis’s five-years-younger kid brother. I’ll speak about Mathis’s childhood experiences with both sets of his grandparents.

Mathis was the oldest son of Leo Blackstock, who was the oldest son of Rabun Blackstock, who was the oldest son of James David Blackstock, Confederate soldier. From colonial times the Blackstocks were farmers, up through Mathis’s granddad, Rabun Blackstock, who emigrated from Georgia to Texas in the 1890s. However, Leo, the oldest of Rabun and Pearl Blackstock’s 11 children (and later Mathis’s father), broke the string. He attended the University of Texas and eventually wound up as Professor of Business Law at the University. Even so, the pull of the farm was still strong. Starting at age 6 (1931) Mathis spent his summers at Granddad and Grandmother Blackstock’s farm near Peaster, Texas. He formed close relationships not only with his grandparents, but with his Blackstock aunts and uncles as well. The youngest aunt was only six years older than Mathis. Mathis was at her bedside the day she died in April last year.

In late August 1939, the family drove to the farm to bring Mathis back to Austin. Our visit lasted into early September. On September 1, Hitler invaded Poland, starting World War II. Although we were all anxious to hear the news, the farm had no electricity and therefore no radio. Fortunately our 1935 Oldsmobile did have a radio, but one of the knobs to operate it was broken. Mathis fashioned a substitute key in Granddad’s tool shed, and we were able to keep up with the fast moving events as long as the car’s battery held out. We listened to the war news all the way home to Austin. It turned out to be Mathis’s last summer at the farm.

He entered high school that fall and started science courses that eventually led him to medical school and his career as a family doctor. Despite spending a lifetime treating patients in cities, Mathis never forgot his rural roots. He was intensely proud of his Blackstock kinfolk.

Mathis was equally close to his maternal grandparents, Wilhoite and Hallie (“Dama” to her grandchildren) Barrickman. Also emigrants to Texas, they made the move with their two daughters, Elisabeth and Harriet, from Louisville, Kentucky, in 1908 and eventually settled in Dallas in 1912.

When hard times came in 1930 (Mathis was five and I was just born), they moved to Austin, Grandfather to live in our home, Dama to live in Aunt Elisabeth’s home. Grandfather taught Mathis to ride a bicycle (in the middle of the intersection of Duval and 38th Streets!), often voiced his anti-FDR sentiments, and impressed on Mathis his Scottish heritage. About 1940, Grandfather got Mathis to start a pen pal letter writing friendship with Dorothy Rae, a Scottish girl of Mathis’s age. Though they never met in person, they continued their correspondence throughout Mathis’s life.

As for Grandmother Barrickman, who was as pro-FDR as Grandfather was anti, Mathis said “Dama was the magnet—the central figure in the family. She had a very powerful way of pulling people toward her—in a very understated way. ” She spent hours teaching Mathis, Barbara (our cousin), and me about nature, plants and wildflowers, and woodcraft. Perhaps Dama’s teaching was what so motivated Mathis in the Boy Scouts. He earned his Eagle Scout award about 1940. Dama introduced Mathis to the Congregational Church, in which she became active soon after moving to Austin. Mathis’s lifelong dedication to the Church began with Dama. It is fitting that, next to the church window dedicated to his beloved Grandmother Barrickman, is the church window dedicated to Mathis last year.

Thank you, Mathis, for being my brother.

Dr. Jeanna Cook and Dr. Mathis Blackstock wrote an account of Matt's life entitled, "A Physician's Life".



Pictures and Documents

Award from the Texas Academy of Family Physicians

Scoutmaster's Training Course Group at Outdoor Session at Camp Tom Wooten, July, 1944.
L to R: Unknown; Mr. Ireland of Troop 5; Unknown; Unknown; Mathis Blackstock; Victor Scott

Medical Fraternity, UT Cactus, 1948
Matt and Sigman Hayes, his first partner in Austin are pictured.

Harriet and Elizabeth Barrickman, Matt’s mother and her sister
University of Texas 1922

Harriet Barrickman, Matt’s mother
University of Texas Cactus yearbook,1923

Leo Guy Blackstock, Matt’s father, Instructor
University of Texas Cactus yearbook,1928

Leo Guy Blackstock, Matt’s father, Texas Law Review
University of Texas Cactus yearbook, 1932

Fraternity Party, Matt is front row at left.