In the early 1950s, Dr. Norman Graham and his associate, Dr. William McElveen, answered the call to move to the growing city of Tomball, which, despite its growth at the time, had a lack of medical physicians, according to an article in a 2002 "Spirit of Tomball" publication by the Greater Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce.
Graham would later become known as the “patriarch” of Tomball’s medical community. He served the community for 69 years before he died Sept. 3 at age 96, according to Lynn LeBouef—chief executive officer of the Tomball Regional Health Foundation—who worked with Graham previously.
“[My dad] helped create this community medical team that is now massive for the Tomball and the surrounding areas,” said Leif Graham, Norman's son. “Good, quality health care—that was my dad's mission in life.”
According to GTACC Bruce Hillegeist, who said his own birth was assisted by the late doctor himself, Graham left a legacy that touched not only the people of Tomball but he surrounding Greater Houston area as well.
Throughout his years in the area, Graham served on the Tomball ISD board of trustees, as deputy county medical examiner for Northwest Harris County, and as a medical examiner for the Federal Aviation Administration.
“Our community [has been] shaped in so many ways by Dr. Graham's servant leadership and his professionalism as a doctor—delivering many babies, having his healing hand on so many people in the Tomball, Spring, Klein, Hockley, [and] Waller areas over many years,” Hillegeist said.
Graham left his Port Aransas practice in 1951 and headed for Tomball to join the medical staff of the then-16-bed Tomball Hospital, according to the book "A Tribute to Tomball: A Pictorial History of the Tomball Area," which was published in 1982. The doctor later became the facility’s first chief of staff and hospital manager.
“I met ‘Doc’ Graham when I was a young child,” longtime Tomball resident Millie Theis Martin said in a statement. “Doc Graham had only recently arrived in Tomball, establishing his clinic and reopening the small hospital. His dedication to bringing medical care to the Tomball community is legendary.”
As Tomball’s medical community grew over the years, Graham made arrangements to sell Tomball Hospital in the mid-1970s.
Reflecting on his time with Graham, LeBouef spoke of the doctor’s love of making hospital rounds, which exemplified his dedication to his patients and practice.
“[Graham] was just a character,” LeBouef said. “I remember, one time, he rode up to the ER riding a horse. He was your ultimate country doctor who really pioneered health care in the Tomball area; there would not be a hospital in Tomball if it was not for Dr. Graham.”
Graham was honored with a livestreamed funeral service and motorcade tribute Sept. 16.
In the 2002 GTACC publication, Graham recalled the first day he joined the Tomball community.
“As I drove up what was then called Highway 149, the evening sky was lit up with what appeared to be a brilliant red sunset,” he said. “I thought to myself, ‘This must be heaven,’ so I made myself a promise that I would be the best doctor I could be to stay here.”