Dr. Douglas B. Willingham, fresh out of dental school, set down roots 35 years ago in the community in which his ancestor Archibald Willingham is credited by historians as building the first home along Salado Creek, a log cabin built in 1849.
Dr. Willingham chose the historic Armstrong-Adams House, which was known to many old-timers in Salado as Dr. Guthrie’s place, at the corner of Main Street and Thomas Arnold. Bill and Pat Ashe had purchased the one-story rock house the year before and had restored it.
For most of its century and a half, the limestone building has served the practice of doctors, pharmacists and, most recently, dentist. Here Dr. Willingham began and built a practice that is midway through its fourth decade in Salado.
“It’s scary how little I knew then about managing a dental practice,” he told Salado Village Voice as he marked his 20th anniversary. “Perhaps it’s just as well. The risks involved in beginning a dental practice in a village of 900 people are perhaps best taken by the young and the ignorant.”
And the dedicated as Doug has proven throughout the decades. In the late 1980’s, Willingham oversaw the rescue and securing of the College Hill ruins by the Salado Historical Society, conducted by his long-time friend Tim Brown.
Dr. Willingham has served on the Salado Historical Society board of directors when the Boles-Aiken cabin was discovered, rescued and rebuilt on the grounds of the Salado Civic Center, next to the Hamblen-Aiken family cemetery. He now serves on the revitalized Salado College-Robertson Colony Foundation board as it works to turn the College Ruins into an historic park.
Love of history comes naturally for the man who grew up in the red dirt of Lubbock. When he decided to build a home adjacent to his practice, he turned again to his friend Tim Brown. While his personal home captures the feel and character of Texas, it does so in a way that complements and contrasts with the historic Armstrong-Adams house. It is a much different style, done so purposefully in order to maintain the Texas Historical Marker and National Register on the Armstrong-Adams house.
At the center of his home is a two-story fireplace mantel moved to Salado from the Willingham ranch, dated 1880. A painting of the old Willingham place in Lubbock graces the wall of the living room.
A graduate of Baylor College of Dentistry, Dr. Willingham has a long list of professional and community activities. He has served the Texas Dental Association in numerous positions. He was editor of the award-winning Texas Dental Journal for seven years and has also served as that group’s historian. Among other citations he has received both the Distinguished Service Award and the President’s Award, the Association’s highest honors. He is a Fellow of both the American and International Colleges of Dentists, the Pierre Fauchard Academy and in 1988 was among 22 other Texas dentists to be nominated for “Texas Dentist of the Year.”
He is also a regular to the Super Dentist honor list published annually by Texas Monthly magazine.
Dr. Willingham has also been involved in Salado and Bell County organizations. A past president of the Salado Historical Society and the Railroad and Pioneer Museum in nearby Temple, Willingham has been involved in numerous historic preservation causes, such as his three-year chairmanship of the Salado College Preservation Project and his authorship of the applications for four Texas Historical Markers. He has served on the vestry and as Senior Warden of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Belton.
Doug says his favorite activity, however, has been that of father to his beautiful daughter, Sofie and husband to his wife of 10 years Carol Meyer Willingham.
“Fortunately for me, the citizens of this great community got behind me and supported me from the very beginning,” Dr. Willingham said.
In appreciation of the families that have supported Family Dentistry over the years, Dr. Willingham and wife Carol held a Patient Appreciation Day at their home and property.