I recently read Dr. Zack Bobo’s memoir, Ramblings of a Country Doctor, published in 1977. The memoir touched on his youth, medical school, a lengthy career as a doctor, time in Arlington, and traveling. He included observations about living life, the medical profession, and a determination to “keep a-stepping” — advice from a fellow doctor he often passed onto others. Bobo lived a life full of adventure and discovery before passing away in 1987 at age 90. He’s buried at Parkdale Cemetery in Arlington.
Bobo was a doctor for 55+ years, with most of his career in Arlington. Notably, he delivered an estimated 4,000 babies during his career, referred to as “Bobo’s babies.” To put that into perspective, Arlington didn’t even have 4,000 people when he moved his practice here in 1931. He essentially helped populate the equivalent of a small town.
His family was among the earliest settlers in Rhome, Texas, a small town in Wise County about 45 miles northwest of Arlington. Zachariah Blount Bobo, Jr. was born February 8, 1897, in Rhome. He was one of 12 children and had eight sisters. Hunting and fishing were favored pastimes of his youth and later in his life as well.
In 1916, Bobo went to Baylor University in Waco as a medical student. He then entered the Baylor University School of Medicine in Dallas in 1918. When World War I started during his senior year, he joined the navy despite having only three months until graduation. He graduated in June 1922 and later interned at Charity Hospital in New Orleans for a year. A few years later, he married his wife, Ruth.
Bobo first decided to practice medicine in Fort Worth. He and his wife lived there until 1931 when he moved his practice to Arlington.
His career in Arlington started by renting a small office over Coulter’s Drugstore on Center Street, near the mineral well in the town square. At that time, Arlington had a population of 2,100 people and already had five doctors. Nonetheless, Dr. Bobo continued to grow his practice. In 1936, he built a private 13-bed hospital at 311 S. Center Street in Arlington. It was common for hospitals to be privately-owned during that time — they were more like expanded clinics than modern-day hospitals.
He operated his hospital until the Texas Commerce Bank purchased the building in 1948. He then started his third and final practice in Arlington, located at 515 S. Center Street, working late into his life. (Dr. Bobo was against retirement, believing it was a dirty word.) He practiced medicine for more than 50 years on Center Street in Arlington.
During the gasoline shortage in World War II, he would often make calls and travel to and from his hospital by bicycle. He also aided the war effort by serving as an air corps doctor for six months at Hensley Field in Grand Prairie. In 1948, he was named “Outstanding Country Doctor” by the Tarrant County Medical Society.
Dr. Bobo spent 55+ years as a doctor, mainly in Arlington. In addition to being a general practitioner, he was also skilled as a diagnostician and a healer. He often took little or no payment, usually relative to what the patient could afford, which sometimes included unusual items — such as food, livestock, or supplies. He continued to study medicine and attend medical conferences throughout his career. Dr. Bobo seemed to take a holistic approach to wellness. While his book is peppered with medical advice — such as the importance of physical and mental exercise — he also encouraged a zest to live life to its fullest.
Bobo enjoyed playing golf at Meadowbrook Park. He seemed to have a fondness for parks, as there was a “Bobo Park” named after him sometime in the 1940s. It was a neighborhood recreation site on Elm Street with softball fields and a playground, although I believe it is long gone. His memoir is the only place I have seen this park mentioned.
He also helped obtain land for Senter Park. E.G. Senter owned 18 lots on Mary Street, and the Arlington Rotary Club bought three more lots to help create the park. The park opened in 1947 and had the first city-wide summer recreation program, including a softball league. Team names naturally included the “Senter Ghosts” and “The Spookies” because Senter Park is near Parkdale Cemetery. Senter Park recently became recognized as a City of Arlington Local Landmark.
As a member of the Arlington Rotary Club for more than 45 years, Bobo also served as president and vice-president for a time. Later in life, he traveled the world with a group of other doctors and their wives, visiting hospitals and doctors in many countries. Bobo was more of a traveler than a tourist. He had keen observations about the places he visited while also seeming to thrive on the experience. He wanted to live a long life so he could travel more.
Philanthropy and Legacy
Dr. Bobo was also a philanthropist. At age 75, he donated $450,000 to Baylor University for a scholarship fund. He quotes Acts 20:35 in the Bible — “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” The scholarship would “provide financial assistance for worthy Baylor students.” He would select the students himself based on their financial needs and grades. Notably, the students must have a permanent address in Rhome, Arlington, or Mansfield to be eligible. (Dr. Bobo’s wife, Ruth, was from Mansfield.) The scholarship still exists today.
Located at Baylor University in Waco is the Bobo Spiritual Life Center, dedicated in 1982, which Bobo helped fund. Often referred to as The Bobo, it’s a building on campus to host events, study, rest, relax, and recharge. It also has a chapel to meet spiritual needs.
The Fielder House Museum in Arlington has a replica of his office as part of their permanent collection. There are some fascinating things on display, including medical equipment, supplies, and personal items.
Bobo’s observations about Arlington’s past
One of the main reasons I wanted to read his memoir was to get a firsthand account of Arlington’s past. Memoirs offer a different perspective than a history book. He seemed especially interested in two topics that had to do with transportation — the interurban and city streets.
Dr. Bobo recalls that when the interurban was built on Abram Street, many prominent families moved there. The interurban had 15 official stops between Dallas and Fort Worth, a distance of 30 miles. He said it was beneficial to befriend the conductor, though, because he would stop anywhere if he knew you. He mentions that Arlington could use the interurban to ease the energy crisis and traffic jams. (It’s not a bad idea in 2021; I’d love to see the interurban return as part of public transportation or even as heritage tourism.) He also recalls that Arlington used to be a “drummer’s town” — referring to traveling salesmen — and they would often take the interurban into other towns.
He wrote with an admiration for Center Street, where he practiced for decades, saying that many “modern” streets are inferior. He also believes that Arlington should “abandon the entertainment business and build streets which will endure” — which gave me a chuckle. If Bobo were still alive today, I’d love to get his thoughts on our current city streets and infrastructure, as well as our bustling entertainment district. Would he still feel the same way?
Words of wisdom from Dr. Zack Bobo
Throughout his memoir, Dr. Bobo included many words of wisdom. Here are a few quotes from his memoir that I thought were worth sharing
“If you are tired at bedtime, that is physical tiredness. If you are tired when you get up in the morning, that is mental tiredness.”
“I think that the most valuable things in this world are air, water, and sunshine. All are free.”
“You should live each day as if it were the first day of the rest of your life, which it is.”
“Forget your fears. Control your emotions, and have a tremendous desire to live a long life.”
And, finally, “keep a-stepping.” While not an original quote from Dr. Bobo, he shared this advice with thousands of folks throughout his life. It might be the most important lesson I learned from his memoir.
Dr. Zack Bobo, Jr. | February 8, 1897 – October 26, 1987
Ruth Marrs Bobo | November 26, 1902 – December 8, 1981
- Bobo, Jr., Zack. Ramblings of a Country Doctor: An Informal Autobiography after 80 Years of Living and 55 Years of Practice. Southwest Offset, 1977.
- “The Bobo Spiritual Life Center | Spiritual Life | Baylor University.” Spiritual Life | Baylor University, https://www.baylor.edu/spirituallife/index.php?id=870570. Accessed 12 Oct. 2021.
- Fort Worth Star-Telegram Collection, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries. Country doctor, Doctor Zack Bobo, Arlington, Texas. (1947). Retrieved from https://library.uta.edu/digitalgallery/img/10007740
- Fielder House Museum / Arlington Historical Society: Arlington, Texas – “Bobo Hospital,” “Bobo Hospital – newspaper clipping (April 1936),” “Dr. Bobo’s office – exhibit at Fielder House Museum,” “Bobo Babies – Please Stop At Two!,” and “Dr. Bobo portrait & written history from daughter, Barbara.”
Visit the Fielder House Museum to see a replica of Dr. Bobo’s office as part of our permanent collection!
Fielder House Museum / Arlington Historical Society
1616 W. Abram Street
Arlington, Texas 76013
Blog post by Jason S. Sullivan, 10-20-21