Baylor’s Place in Presidential History


Since five living presidents are in Dallas today for the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center on the Southern Methodist University campus, we decided to take a walk down memory lane in our photo archives to revisit some of our most well known presidential visits throughout the years.

In 1954, Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas purchased its first cobalt machine for radiation therapy. The machine weighed eight tons and required a special building with heavy, 30-inch lead and concrete insulation to keep radioactivity under positive control. Radiologists estimated that it would benefit 15% of all cancer patients.

A few years later, Baylor acquired a first-of-its-kind, revolutionary two-million volt X-ray unit. Ronald Reagan, before he became either Governor of California or President of the United States, was on hand representing General Electric, the machine’s manufacturer, when Baylor dedicated thew new unit.

In 1961, Sam Rayburn, the legendary Speaker of the House was admitted to Baylor for cancer treatment, and his arrival, Boone Powell Sr. said, posed “one of the biggest public relations jobs in the center’s 58-year history.”

On extremely short notice, the hospital faced the task of setting up a press room with 20 telephones and typewriters, a television room, and facilities for the House Speaker’s administrative staff. Guest rooms at the hospital were turned over to the staff and members of Rayburn’s family.


Baylor was inundated with a deluge of distinguished visitors that had come to visit Rayburn, including Vice President Lyndon Johnson, former President Harry S. Truman, Secretary of the Navy, John Connally, and a steady stream, of congressional representatives

President John F. Kennedy made an unexpected 3,100-mile flight to bring his strength, warmth, and sense of humor to Sam Rayburn’s bedside. Neither man bothered to mention the illness, dwelling instead on “everything from politics to world events,” said Kennedy’s aide.

It was then that The Dallas Morning News pointed out, “Physically… Baylor is a great and fine hospital .. but it’s heart is greater …The most remarkable change is in the ever-increasing scientific equipment and services that have come from medical research.” Words that we are still proud to stand on today.

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Baylor’s Place in Presidential History