"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Monday, November 30, 2015

Charles R. Drew

This 1953 portrait of Charles R. Drew by Betsy Graves Reyneau hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.
"In 1940 with German bombers dropping their deadly cargoes daily on British cities, England stood in desperate need of blood supplies for its thousands of wounded civilians. To fill this shortage, the British turned to the African American physician Charles Drew, America's recognized pioneer in the preservation and storage of blood. Drew expeditiously organized the Blood Transfusion Association, and the crisis in war-torn England's hospitals was met. A year later, Drew became the medical director of the American Red Cross's blood-donor project, and it was largely because of his expertise that this enterprise saved many American lives during the war. Yet when the Red Cross ordered that all non-Caucasian blood be stored separately, Drew resigned, stating that there were no scientific or medical reasons for classifying blood by race. Today Drew is universally deemed the 'Father of the Blood Bank.'" -- National Portrait Gallery

Read Dr. Drew's Curriculum vitae and half of his Biographical Resumé

Betsy Graves' painting seems to closely follow this photo by Robert S. Scurlock,

Charles Drew in lab in front of a microscope

right down to the three test-tubes of blood:

Schatzki in the American Journal of Roentgenology confirms that:
The … posthumous painting is the latter of two portraits of Dr. Drew completed by Reyneau. It was painted from a photograph taken by Robert S. Scurlock, a prominent Afro-American photographer in Washington, DC. Mr. Scurlock remembers that the photograph was taken in Dr. Drew’s laboratory at Freedman’s Hospital in Washington, sometime in the late 1940s. 
This c. 1940 photo of Charles Drew with Laboratory Apparatus also belongs to the  Moorland-Spingarn Research Center and is available from NLM.

It, too,  underlies a Betsy Graves Reyneau painting. The photo below of that painting appeared in Portraits of Outstanding Americans of Negro Origin Painted by Two Women Artists, by Laura Wheeler Waring and Betsy Graves Reyneau, 1943, which you can buy on Etsy.

Charles Alston covered Dr. Drew, including his athletic prowess in a WWII propaganda poster:

 Charles Drew married Spelman College professor Lenore Robbins in 1938. A letter he wrote her in 1940 appeared in a Valentine's Day article in the Washington Post, in 1998. In the 1940's, they lived in this house in Pleasant Plains, DC., behind the white door at 3324 Sherman Ave., NW.

Charles R. Drew House

See the historical marker at HMdb or read about Charles R. Drew House at Cultural Tourism DC.

This ca. 1947 Harris & Ewing photo shows Charles, Lenore with their family at home.

Charlene Rosella Drew, shown leaning to the left toward her sister Rhea Sylvia, would become Dr. Charlene Drew Jarvis,  DC councilmember and president of Southeastern University. Charlene was seven years old when her father died in a traffic accident in North Carolina on April 1, 1950.

The biographical resume says:
Dr. Drew met an untimely death in an automobile accident near Burlington, N.C. between 7:00 and 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, April 1, 1950. Dr. Drew is survived by his wife Minnie Lenore Robbins Drew, their four children, Bebe Roberta 9 yrs.; Charlene Rosella 7 yrs.; Rhea Sylvia 6 yrs. and Charles Richard, Jr. 5 yrs. Also are his mother, Mrs. Nora Drew, a brother, Joseph; two sisters, Nora Gregory and Eva Johnson. 
Patrick G. Jordan of Graham North Carolina took this photo of the historical marker in Burlington marking the site of the automobile accident (See HMdb.)

In Memory of
Charles Richard Drew
1904 - 1950

The plaque reads:

Charles Richard Drew
1904 - 1950
Black scientist and surgeon
Pioneer in the preservation of blood plasma
Medical director of the Blood-for-Britain Project, 1940
Director of the first American Red Cross Blood Bank, 1941
Teacher to a generation of American doctors, Freedmen's Hospital,
Howard University, Washington, D.C.
Outstanding athlete, Amherst College and McGill University
Member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity
Steadfast foe of racial injustice
Died in Alamance General Hospital 1 April, 1950, after an automobile accident at this site

“There must always be the continuing struggle to make the increasing knowledge of the world bear some fruit in increased understanding and in the production of human happiness”. Charles R. Drew

The Washington Star reported the accident and Dr. Drew's death on the front page. “Dr. Ford said Dr. Drew apparently dozed at the wheel and the car overturned when he tried to straighten it out on a road shoulder.” 

Biswas and Perdomo in their American College of Surgeons poster describe the mythology surrounding Drew's death:
A myth arose about Drew’s death: He had been turned away
from a white-only segregated hospital, a story perpetuated in
Time magazine (March 29, 1968) and the hit TV show M*A*S*H
(season 2, episode 9)
. The fable had its roots in a 1959 play
by Edward Albee, The Death of Bessie Smith, where the famous
blues singer dies upon being turned away from an all-white
segregated hospital in the South. While it was true that Smith
died after a car crash, she she was taken directly to an all-black
hospital where she died.
In 1994 Charlene Drew Jarvis made a concerted effort to fight the myth because she believed it was discouraging African Americans from donating blood or marrow. See Armed with the Truth in a Fight to Save Lives, by Patrice Grimes, The Washington Post, April 10, 1994. We should emphasize that although this particular anecdote is not true, many African Americans were turned away from Whites-only hospitals in the south. Spencie Love in her 1996 book One Blood: The Death and Resurrection of Charles R. Drew cites the case of Maltheus Reeves Avery 
Behind a legend and its hero are the visceral experiences of individual men and women, the essential threads from which the legend is woven. Nowhere is the larger truth of the Charles Drew legend revealed more concretely than in the life and death of a young black man named Maltheus Reeves Avery, who actually met the fate that the victim legend describes. -- Spencie Love, 1996, Page 217.
The postal museum notes that “A 35-cent stamp honoring Dr. Charles R. Drew was issued June 3, 1981, in Washington, DC, his birthplace. The date coincided with the 77th anniversary of his birth.” A flyer from the First Day of Issue Ceremony identifies Nathan Jones of Dallas, Texas as the stamp's designer.

The Michigan Avenue Bridge over the RR tracks in the Brookland neighborhood of  Washington, DC, was rebuilt in 1981. In 1983 a committee appointed by the mayor named the replacement, The Charles Richard Drew Bridge. Charlene Drew Jarvis represented Ward 4 on the council at the time. The dedication plaque is somewhat inaccessible.  The photo, below, is a modification of Richard E. Miller's 2008 photo in HMdb

Charles Richard Drew
Memorial Bridge
Named in Honor of
Dr. Charles Richard Drew

Esteemed Citizen
of the
District of Columbia
Athlete Scholar Surgeon and
Scientist Whose Discoveries In
Blood Preservation Saved
Thousands of Lives.

Here's Richard E. Miller's 2008 photo of the Charles Richard Drew Memorial Bridge from the Brookland-CUA Metro Station parking lot.

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