October 22, 1878 – January 3, 1962
Dr. William P. “Doc”Byron was born in Lemoore in 1878, the youngest of six kids, to Henry and Rosina Byron, who homesteaded the family ranch in 1869 just north of town. He went to Washington Elementary School in Lemoore. Lemoore High School wasn’t established yet, so he attended Lincoln High School in San Francisco. Upon graduation he attended a prep school graduating in 1899. In 1900 he became a student at the California Medical College, San Francisco, and graduated in 1904 as a honor student.
The summer after Byron graduated from college, he tried out and made the practice team for the San Francisco Seals, the new, local baseball team. The Seals were charter members of the new Pacific Coast League.
Byron began his practice, in the fall of 1904, working for a logging company in Ridgefield, Washington as the chief surgeon for 7 saw mills that were spread out over 50 miles of forest.
In 1906 Byron returned to Lemoore and started a practice in the bank building which was where Wells Fargo Bank stands today. In 1907 he was made the district surgeon for the Southern Pacific Railroad Company. In 1909 his brother, Dr. E. H. Byron, joined his practice before leaving in November, 1912, to start a practice in Riverdale.
In the earliest days there were no hospital accommodations locally, no X rays for diagnosis, no laboratory and no nurses. Deliveries were made with the help of a pot of hot water on the stove, hours of encouragement and attendance on the part of the doctor, and sometimes, “grandma” around to assist. Surgery involved a kitchen table, a coal oil lamp, with instruments boiling atop the old kitchen stove. At first he had to carry his own medicines, because he had to, until later when a drugstore was started in Lemoore.
Calls into the country involved many nightmarish occasions when the doctor wallowed the mud, ploughed through rutted roads, through clouds of dust and dirt and black nights with light to isolated farmhouses. There were old Dobbin and the inevitable buggy to keep him company. In 1906 he bought his first automobile, an old “Lambert”. But the horse didn’t retire, for there were many times when the auto couldn’t make it and the horse and buggy were pressed into service. As the years passed, the roads improved and a hospital was established, it became easier to find the patients, and the old era of medicine was virtually gone.
In 1910 Byron married Miss Ruby E. Fassett of Iowa and lived on Heinlen Street, opposite the park. In 1919 married Belle Washburn from Hanford.
The influenza epidemic came to Kings County in fall of 1918. Twenty million people, worldwide, ended up dying from the flu. Eighty people died in Kings County within just a few months. The Lemoore City Council banned all gatherings and invoked a mask ordinance, imposing a $25 fine on violators. The major threat was that after 2 or 3 days of the flu, the weakened victim would contract pneumonia or another serious respiratory disease. The youngsters and older folks were the most susceptible; and they suffered mightily. But the disease also killed many healthy and strong younger folks. Doc Byron personally attended to 1800 cases in Lemoore. It seemed like everyone was sick. People were so ill they couldn’t help each other, and there were no nurses available. It seems like a miracle, that all but two of his patients survived.
In 1941, World War II broke out in Europe and after Perl Harbor, the Army Air Corp needed a west coast base for their squadrons. They chose to locate that base in west of Lemoore because of its central location and plentiful open and flat space. The pilots and all the support personnel and their families moved into the new barracks and base housing. Dr. B.H. Pratt and Byron were contracted to take care of the new residents.