Coastal Bend History


Only in America: The story of a man named Doddridge

Posted at 10:21 PM, Jun 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-09 01:54:23-04

I would venture to guess that 90 percent of the people who have lived in Corpus Christi would recognize the name "Doddridge."

Not the person but the street.

It's one of those confusing streets on a map that defies logic.

Turn off Ocean Drive at Ada Wilson's old house, and you're now traveling down Doddridge Street. Continue on through Santa Fe and past Alameda.

Then try to negotiate that wicked curve in the road at Pope Drive and travel on to the stoplight at Staples. The minute one passes through the light, Doddridge suddenly becomes Weber Road.


Who knows.

So who was this Doddridge person?

The street is named after Perry Doddridge, former mayor of Corpus Christi.

Perry Doddridge

His life was one of those "only in America" stories of a kid who started with nothing, met the right people, worked hard, and made something of himself.

He was born in Alabama in 1832 and lost both parents in Galveston at age 7.

At age 14, he met and went to work for a pair of enterprising young men named Mifflin Kenedy and Richard King with whom he remained lifelong friends.

He would eventually start his own highly successful wool trading business.

He came to Corpus Christi in 1862 and married 16-year-old Rachel Fullerton, daughter of Captain Samuel Fullerton. Never mind that he was almost twice her age; this was common in those days.

They had a son born to them in 1863, only to lose him 4 years later in the horrendous yellow fever epidemic of 1867.

In 1871, Doddridge organized and opened Corpus Christi's very first bank, located at the corner of Chaparral and Lawrence.

Doddridge Building

The following year, he was elected mayor of Corpus Christi, serving until 1875.

He was behind the first railroads from Corpus Christi to the Rio Grande and the dredging of the first ship channel across the bay.

As President of the school board for 20 years, he also helped organize the city's first public schools.

He was highly respected by all of the city's citizens.

During the 1870s and 80s, the Doddridge mansion on Upper Broadway (which stood where the First Presbyterian Church stands today) became a gathering place for the city's elite and influential.

They came to dance, play games, socialize, and feast at magnificent dinners.

But the charmed life of Perry Doddridge was not to last.

In 1893, a major depression swept the country. Like thousands of others, Perry's bank failed as loans were not repaid, and panicked depositors tried to withdraw money that was not there.

In a scene reminiscent of the one from "It's a Wonderful Life", Perry Doddridge was not about to abandon his depositors....those friends who had trusted him with their money.

Using his own personal fortune, he was able to pay every depositor 60% of their money before he himself went bankrupt. He never recovered from the loss of everything he had worked so hard to earn during his lifetime.

The city's first historian, Mary Sutherland, wrote that Perry Doddridge was "a good, honest man, self-made, and whose greatest sin was his trust in his fellow man."

After losing the bank, Doddridge became manager of the electric company.

His final act of service to his community came with his appointment to the post of County Commissioner, a position he held at the time of his death on June 11, 1902.

Rachel Doddridge died the following year.

Both are buried in Rose Hill Cemetery.

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 on the subject.