Original Repository: Howard University. Moorland-Spingarn Research Center. Charles R. Drew Papers
Reproduced with permission of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center.
Becoming "the Father of the Blood Bank," 1938-1941
May 31, 1940
Dear Mr. Henderson:
Through great want of time I have put off too long congratulating you on the splendid book you got out on Negro Athletes.
It is a grand job. I want to thank you for autographing the copy Francis Gregory and my sister sent me for a Christmas present
and express my appreciation for your generosity in the amount of space allotted to me.
I doubt if any one really told you how big a part you have played in the lives of a lot of the men you wrote of in your book,
not so much by the things you have said, or the things you have done or the lessons in physical education but rather by virtue
of the things you have stood for and the way you have lived throughout all these years. The big thing is that in these days
of fallen idols of all types it is particularly refreshing to know a few people whom we thought were just about tops when
we were kids and when looked at in the sober light of more mature years to find that they are still tops, that they have consistently
been the things which they have said other folks should be, that they have tried to do the things which they have said should
be attempted. I personally feel a great debt of gratitude to you. I owe you and a few other men like you for setting most
of the standards that I have felt were worthwhile, the things I have lived by and for and wherever possible have attempted
to pass on.
Some few always have to set the pace and give the others courage to go on into places which have not been explored. We have
so few things to be really proud of that the presentation of so much that is good in one book is sure to have results far
beyond your wildest dreams. You have set the pace continually and we who have had the privilege of coming under your influence
can not but feel just a bit chesty when we say "Mr. Henderson, - sure I know him, taught me in high school; you bet he's
My work here is about finished. I've gone as far as I can go in formal medicine so I guess I'll have to go to work
now. It has been good fun. Chiefly I suppose because it has never been done by a Negro before and it is felt that the higher
realms of medicine are not the place for him. On Tuesday I get the degree of Doctor of Science in Medicine. Now that all is
over but the shouting it feels just about like the day after a big race is won. One wonders why all the excitement before
the race was run, the anxious days of training, the striving for form, the all too slow increase in speed, the fine edge on
the day of the meet, the gun and then the whole thing is over. The only thing in medicine is that it takes so much longer.
When it is all over it is just another medal in the box and we begin looking forward to the next seasons' competition.
My next big meet is at Howard in the department of Surgery. There the situation is comparable to the sport situation when
I took over at Morgan College. They were playing high school teams and getting licked. In two years they had won three college
Championships and had a nucleus for one of the best series of teams ever seen in the colored colleges. Those boys who made
that first great team for Morgan on the football field were the men I started as freshmen and seniors in the Morgan Academy.
I count it as one of the most pleasing experiences I have had. In medicine we still are in the scholastic class. Whether I
can do anything about that or not is a challenge that is well worth taking on. Seventy years there has been a Howard Med School
but still there is no tradition, no able surgeon has ever been trained there, no school of thought has been born there, few
of their stars have ever hit the headlines. In American surgery there are no Negro representatives, in so far as the men who
count know, all Negro doctors are just country practitioners, capable of sitting with the poor and the sick of their race
but not given to too much intellectual activity and not particularly interested in advancing medicine. This attitude I should
like to help change. It should be great sport. If at the end of another 25 years I can look back over my steps and feel that
I have kept the faith in my sphere of activity in a manner comparable to that in which you have carried on in yours I shall
be very happy. Again I congratulate you.