Elmer C. Jackson, MD
Dr. Elmer C. Jackson truly was a pioneer in the clinical as well as cultural development of Missouri’s public mental health system. As the first African-American psychiatrist in the Department of Mental Health, Dr. Jackson overcame the institutional discrimination of the 1950s and 60s to leave a lasting legacy on the Department.
A native of McAlester, Oklahoma, Dr. Jackson was a 1939 graduate of Langston University. He served in the United Sates Army during World War II and earned his medical degree from the University of Colorado before taking an internship in St. Louis in 1954 at the Homer G. Phillips Hospital. After the internship, he went into private practice as a pediatrician in St. Louis, but his desire to raise his family in a more rural setting brought him and his wife to Central Missouri and Fulton State Hospital.
During Dr. Jackson’s career at Fulton State Hospital, he also served as Associate Director of Child Psychology, Director of the Biggs Forensic Center and Clinical Director and Medical Director of the hospital. He was an advocate for the community integration of people with mental illness and he championed the development of community outpatient services. Dr. Jackson retired from the hospital in 1989. However, he continued to work part-time for almost 10 more years.
Shortly after his retirement, Dr. Jackson said in an interview that over the years, the racial barriers began to fade. The societal change coincided with the change taking place in the mental health system of care. In honor of his nearly three decades of work, the hospital named a treatment center for him. The Elmer C. Jackson Treatment Complex includes three wards, nursing stations and office where mentally ill adults are treated.
Dr. Jackson won over the staff at the hospital with his respectful personality and his outstanding clinical skills. He remains one of the most highly regarded individuals to have worked at the hospital.
The Honorable Warren E. Hearnes
Warren E. Hearnes served as the 46th Governor of Missouri. Hearnes was 41 years old when he was elected Governor in 1964 — at that time he was the youngest person ever to win election to that office. For the next eight years, his leadership would help to transform the landscape for mental health services in Missouri and improve the future for individuals and families.
Governor Hearnes’ administration was a time of change, innovation and expansion of access for mental health services in Missouri. His administration helped lay the foundation for today’s public mental health system which serves more then 170,000 citizens who are impacted by substance abuse, mental illness and developmental disabilities.
Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services were created under Governor Hearnes’ administration. Missouri’s Regional Office System serving persons with developmental disabilities was established and community mental health services began to take root under the leadership of the young man from Charleston, Missouri.
Warren was married to Betty Cooper of Charleston in 1948. Betty is a mental health leader in her own right. They have three daughters.
Missouri’s mental health system owes much to Warren Hearnes. A treatment facility on the campus of Fulton State Hospital is named and dedicated in his honor. But his greatest legacy is the thousands and thousands of Missourians and their families who have benefitted over the past five decades from the vision and commitment of this man from the Bootheel who dedicated his life to public service.
Betty Cooper Hearnes
Betty Cooper Hearnes, the daughter of a Baptist minister and an aspiring musical talent, met Warren Hearnes in 1947. A love of each other, politics and the people of their state propelled her into a life of public service that has left an indelible mark on mental health care in Missouri.
Partnering with her husband during his two terms as Governor, Betty Hearnes was a pioneer in advancing the mental health system from the dark ages of institutionalization to treatment and rehabilitation.
She later established a distinguished political career in her own right, serving as a state representative and the Democratic nominee for Governor in 1988. She followed that up with nine years of distinguished service on the Missouri Mental Health Commission, including four years as the Chair. Throughout that journey, Betty was an advocate for improving mental health care and an agent of change for that purpose.
During her years on the mental health commission, Betty was tireless advocate for services to help not only individuals, but also families. As the grandparent of a child with autism, Betty crusaded for a system that gives parents an important role in establishing the service menu for autism. Regional Autism Parents Advisory Committees were established by the Department of Mental Health at the urging of Betty and other mental health commission members. She has also served as Chair of the Autism Committee in Mississippi County for 19 years.
From the First Lady of Missouri, to a state representative, to gubernatorial candidate, to mental health commissioner, Betty C. Hearnes has been at the forefront of innovation, expansion and improvement of mental health services. Her heartfelt compassion for others and her tireless leadership has made life better for thousands of Missouri families. That is her legacy.