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DR. CHARLES RICHARD DREW

Physician, Surgeon (1904-1950)

Charles Richard Drew was born on June 3, 1904 in Washington, D.C.  He attended the Stevens Elementary School and went on to Paul Lawrence Dunbar High, where he became the best all-around athlete.  At age 15, he first imagined becoming a doctor after he watched his sister die of tuberculosis.  He graduated from high school and was awarded a partial scholarship to Amherst College in Massachusetts.  At Amherst College, Drew was almost totally surrounded by whites.   He still excelled in sports but started to turn his attention to medicine after a tackler left a metal cleat in his thigh. 

He was still voted the football captain, but only with much fighting from other students.  His grades were averaging to about Bs and Cs in everything but biology.  He applied to Howard University, but was turned down.  He told his brother Joe, "Someday I'll come back and run this place."  Weeks later he was accepted to McGill University in Montreal, Canada.  Drew excelled at McGill, but still made time for sports.  He thought that Canadians were color-blind because there was no segregation in Canada. 

He lived on $10 dollars a week.  In the fall of 1930, Drew won a Rosenwald Scholarship, a prestigious award for the education of Black students.  Drew impressed his anatomy instructor, Dr. John Beattie.  Beattie fascinated Drew with his work with blood.  Before long Drew was reading everything he could on blood.  Charles and Beattie became friends and began to do experiments together.  Drew often visited Montreal General Hospital to watch Beattie test for blood types.  One day a patient needed a transfusion and his sisters' blood did not match, so Drew donated some of his own.  In February 1941, the United States Armed Forces asked the Red Cross to organize American Blood Banks.  Dr. Drew was appointed Assistant Director of this national program. 

Near the end of his life, he was given many Awards.  The E.S. Jones award, an honorary degree from Virginia State, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Spingarn Medal in 1944.  He was also on many boards.  One of which was the American Soviet Committee on Science.  Also, he was a fellow of the International Surgeons.  He was on the National Society of Crippled Children and a local chapter of the American Cancer Society.  Dr. Charles Richard Drew died in a car accident on April 1, 1950.  Although he did not make much money, he was a generous man.  The most important thing he gave to mankind, however, cannot be measured by money.

Revised: July 18, 2013.