WICHITA FALLS, TX (RNN Texoma) - The headstone that now marks the site of Dr. Annie Davis Roark previously unmarked grave is etched with the words “Matriarch of the Eastside” the moniker she received for her service to her community. It is all thanks to efforts from the Museum of North Texas and funds raised by the community.
Eastside resident Matthew Ainsworth with Ainsworth & Young Funeral Homes said, “She was the first African American to have a practice downtown in Wichita Falls which was unusual at the time.
Unusual because it was during segregation – a time where the railroad tracks served as a line of demarcation between races of people.
But Dr. Annie Roark's work served as a bridge.
As a podiatrist downtown, her clientele was mostly white. She also owned businesses on the east side where the black community could gather – such as the Isis Theater where a historical marker now stands.
It was during the process of getting that marker that those with the Museum of North Texas found she was buried in an unmarked grave.
In the fundraiser they held earlier this year to buy a headstone, they received donations from many individuals including one anonymous donor that gave a substantial amount all because of his memory of her during his younger years.
Museum of North Texas Archivist Bill Steward remembers the donors story, “He said, ‘When I was in high school back in the 60s I would make service calls to Dr. Roark’s home.’ He said ‘I remember her as being the most regal, kind, elderly, lady. She always treated me with respect even though I was a young man.”
With the help of others like Austin Keesee with Austin Stone and Matthew Ainsworth, the museum was able to place a headstone by Annie Roark’s husband's grave Daniel henry Roark. He already had a gravestone because he was a veteran of the Spanish American War.
With a physical stone the memory of Annie Roark will live on past the memories of the people she helped. Ainsworth said, “We have an obligation to look after our community, to go to look back, and reach back, and take our history back.”
Historical Marker Chair Becky Trammell hopes Roark’s story inspires people in the future.
She said, “I hope people remember the story. I hope that people will be moved to see the history, appreciate the challenges, and perhaps be able to apply overcoming of some of those challenges themselves.”