Archivist & Special Collections Librarian
File this under “Not Your Typical Day in the Archive.” We are currently standardizing how materials are stored in the archive, which means rehousing materials in standard document boxes or relocating oversize materials to the oversize section. Our intern, Albert Duran, began rehousing a few oversize boxes in the MS 050 Mavis Kelsey collection this morning, and he made an amazing discovery — Dr. Bertner’s Tuxedo! We had no idea the archive had the white tie and tails tuxedo of one of the most influential personalities in the history of the Texas Medical Center! I should also mention that we have his summer dinner jacket as well.
We have found amazing Bertner materials in other collections: MS 004 William Seybold, MS 070 R. Lee Clark, and now MS 050 Mavis Kelsey. He keeps popping up, which says a lot about his influence in the TMC. You might remember that last year, we blogged about hearing his voice!
Dr. Kelsey, one of the founders of the Kelsey-Seybold Clinic, provided a handwritten account of how he received the tuxedo when he donated his collection. On ten sheets of note paper dated January 20, 1986, he wrote:
[This is] the dress “white tie and tails” and white summer dinner or tux jacket of Dr. E. W. Bertner, the man who conceived the idea of the Texas Medical Center, was the leader in its organization and became its first president. Truly the “Father of the Texas Medical Center.” Dr. Bertner gave me these clothes in 1949 when I came to Houston to practice medicine.
I officed in Dr. Bertner’s office in the Second National Bank downtown. When the Hermann Professional Building opened about May 1949, Dr. Bertner moved to his own offices there and I moved into an office next door.
Dr. Bertner was suffering from cancer and lived at the Rice Hotel. He and Mrs. Bertner belonged to the Assembly, an exclusive social club which still exists. In 1949 he and Mrs. Bertner invited my wife Mary and me to go to the Assembly Ball. He became ill and couldn’t go. He saw that his days were numbered and he asked me to take his white tie and tails and take Mary to the ball, while he and Mrs. Bertner stayed at home. We accepted the invitation. He then gave me his tails, his white dinner jacket and a black tuxedo – all his dress clothes. They all fit me perfectly. I have saved the tails and summer jacket, but somehow have misplaced the black tuxedo.
I always felt that Dr. Bertner’s dress clothes had historic significance for the Texas Medical Center and am very pleased to give them to the archives.
I have known Dr. E. W. Bertner since I was a pre-med student at Texas A&M. Dr. Bertner was the leading alumnus of the Alpha Kappa Kappa medical fraternity in Galveston. I was being rushed for pledge to AKK, and had already decided that I wanted to be an AKK. I had visited the AKK house in Galveston and heard about what a fine man Dr. Bertner was. So, I, along with some other Aggie pre-meds called on him and Dr. Kyle [possibly, J. Allen Kyle], each officed in the Second National Bank building.
We were cordially received and I considered him a friend from then on. He always came to the annual invitation banquet of AKK in Galveston and was “one of the boys.”
Later, while I was a fellow in Medicine at the Mayo Clinic, I served under Dr. Manfred Comfort, a fellow Texan and fellow AKK from Galveston. Dr. Comfort was a close friend of Dr. Bertner and Dr. Bertner came to the Mayo Clinic to see Dr. Comfort as a patient. I assisted in caring for Dr. Bertner while he was a patient.
I talked to Dr. Bertner about moving to Texas and developing a clinic. He wished me well and said that he had always wanted to build a clinic. After two years on the staff of the Mayo Clinic and after visiting several Texas cities to determine the best place to start a clinic, I decided to try to become part of the Texas Medical Center. I was greatly influenced by Dr. Bertner who encouraged me and offered to let me use his office while one was being built for me in the Hermann Professional Building.
So, I came to Houston, arriving on 15 January 1949. When I got to town I called Dr. Bertner. He told me he had two patients in Hermann Hospital waiting for me.
So that’s how I got to Houston, through the help of Dr. Bertner.
Mavis P. Kelsey, MD
Dr. Kelsey lived to be 101 years old and made significant contributions to Houston and the Texas Medical Center in his own right. You can learn more about his collection in the finding aid for MS 050 Mavis P. Kelsey, MS papers.