Coastal Bend History


A man and his camera

Doc McGregor
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Posted at 3:47 PM, Mar 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-22 16:49:16-04

How many of us have wished that we had photos of the places we so fondly remember while growing up in Corpus Christi?

What I'd give for a photo at Pick's, horseback riding at Horse Shoe Inn, playing Red Rover during recess in elementary school, sitting poolside at the Beach Club, going into a movie at the Tower, riding the escalator at Fedway's, attending a party at the Breakers, dancing at the Carousel Club or White Rabbit, eating at Ship Ahoy, shooting pool at Buccaneer Bowl, golfing at Wee-Tee, sneaking into the Viking, watching the DJ through the picture window at KRYS or KEYS, jumping on the trampolines at Parkdale, downing a cold one at Inza's, etc.

And all of those places are now long gone.

Despite those personal regrets, Corpus Christi is fortunate to have a massive photographic record of its least as it existed from 1929 to the 1960s.

And all thanks to a man named John Frederick "Doc" McGregor (1893-1986).

McGregor came to CC in 1929 to set up shop as a chiropractor, hence the nickname, "Doc".

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Ironically, he came to Corpus from his home state of Pennsylvania because the state had outlawed chiropractors in 1928. Once in Corpus Christi he found that he could not make enough money getting people "re-aligned", so he turned to his hobby, photography, for extra income.

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His office and home at 1015 N. Chaparral also became his photographic studio. He commercially photographed people, school groups, weddings, and events, eventually making far more from his photos than from his chiropractic business. He also began to take photos for the Caller-Times at a time when there was no staff photographer for the paper. Never charging the paper a penny for his work, he only insisted on a photo credit when published.

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During the course of his 50 year career, he documented the growth of Corpus Christi from a small seaside town to a major city.

He left behind over 800,000 images of Corpus Christi's people, its businesses and buildings, cultural events, street scenes, and skyline. He took photos on the ground, atop buildings and bridges, and from the air. He was rarely seen on the streets without several cameras strapped around his neck. He was one of those guys who looked eccentric and disheveled most of the time. But, when it came taking photographs, he was as good as they come.

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Many of his photographs are stunning...and most were done with photographic cameras and equipment that were primitive by today's standards.

It was clearly Doc's mission to record life in the city, its comings and goings, its daily routines, and most of all, its growth.

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By the late 1950s, he began to slow down a bit. He closed the five photo studios he owned in the city (which at one time had employed 30 people). He even quit advertising, taking in only the business that came through the front door of his N. Chaparral store.

He finally completely retired in 1977 at the age of 84.

A grateful city declared October 29, 1977 "Doc McGregor Day" at the Corpus Christi Museum, and again honored him in 1984 with "Doc McGregor Week" (March 20-27).

He would live out his last years in a nursing home, turning his photo shop over to his grandson, John Tinker.

Amazingly, the home and studio of Doc McGregor still proudly stands, thanks to an amazing lady named Robin Reames. She bought the place 20+ years ago and opened her Black Tie Roses floral business in the building. She is as big a fan of Doc McGregor as anyone around, and has lovingly maintained and restored this historic building.

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Doc passed away in 1986, at the age of 93. He is buried in a simple grave at Seaside Cemetery.

If anything, his legacy has only grown in the years since his passing.

Corpus Christi Museum has a magnificent Doc McGregor exhibit and many of his most memorable photos can be purchased there. Thousands of Doc's photos can be viewed through the digitized files at the La Retama Central Library. The visual history of old Corpus Christi will always exist for future generations because of this dedicated man.

(With Doc’s passing in 1986, I decided to make an effort to continue his legacy. I began taking as many photos around CC as I could afford on my meager teacher’s salary. The advent of digital photography, for me in 2002, meant that I could as many as I wanted without worrying about expense. Retirement in 2011 also gave me the time needed to devote to the effort. I have now amassed a collection of some 80,000 photos documenting the growth of the city and the changes that take place daily. Thanks for the inspiration, Doc!)

Robert Parks is a special contributor to KRIS 6 News. Parks was a history teacher at Carroll High School for 19 years and is now retired. His knowledge of Corpus Christi history makes him a unique expert in the subject.