Community fundraises for gravestone for first female African American doctor to open WF practice

Local News

Despite making a great impact on the city of Wichita Falls, a physician who died more than three decades ago does not have a grave marker, and those in the area are looking to change that. 

Annie Roark, one of the leaders of the Eastside community and recently had a historical marker erected in her honor, does not have a tombstone. People have decided to do something about that.
Born in 1894, Roark attended Paul Quin College in Waco where she became a podiatrist. Roark then opened a practice in Mineral Wells before moving to Wichita Falls.

She married, came to Wichita Falls, opened up a clinic which was rare for its time, on Indiana—downtown,” Wichita County Archivist Bill Steward said. “Roark served not only the black community but served the white community as well.”

On top of being a doctor, Roark gave people many opportunities through different businesses on the Eastside.

“She owned the old plaza hotel and cafĂ©,” Steward said. “After her husband’s death here, Daniel Henry Roark, she constructed the Isis theater, which was the first African American theater on the Eastside. It also served as a place where black serviceman who were stationed at Sheppard would have a place to go.”

Roark is buried next to her husband, and the reason, Steward said, she does not have a headstone, is just an oversight.

“She didn’t have children, and there really wasn’t anyone left to take care of that, I assume at her death,” Steward said. “She died in 1984, which was 40 years after her husband. She was quite elderly and things fall through the cracks.”

To help in this matter, a benefit is being held Tuesday night with help from Richie Bates, the North Texas Troubadour, to raise money to get a gravestone for her.

“We need a minimum of about $700-800 and that’s for a flat stone,” Steward said. “I would like to get her something a little nicer. The stone will be dictated by how much money we raise. It’ll be a fun evening. It will be a chance for our community to come together for a common cause, which is more important now than ever.

Steward said he is hopeful that Roark’s final resting place will now be marked properly as her legacy ought to be.

For more information on the event, click here.

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