WHEN PHYSICIAN Edward Mazique was a teen-ager, three of his nine siblings died. His family had been comfortable by the standards of Mississippi blacks, living on 250 acres of land bought by Mazique's grandfather, once a slave, from his former owner, but that didn't protect their lives from an unequal society.
"As far as I am concerned they had no right to die. It bothered me. They died of pneumonia, exposure, the end result of poverty. They his two sisters were both teaching school, driving to and fro in a buggy and horse, exposed themselves to no fire, no heat, no care, cracks in the side of a school house . . . And," he says, heaving a sigh, "there was no doctor."
Now, more than 50 years later, sitting in his Washington home, its finery distant decades from that strapped life, but his lingering philosophy tied to those times, Mazique sees some advantage in having been poor. "A whole lot of things you learn that you don't get when you are rich," he says. "I went through a phase of second-class citizenship, now I am going through first-class citizenship. Now I can see America through four eyes instead of two."
Over the last four decades, Mazique has become an institution in Washington keeping a vigilant watch over many of the town's medical, political, civic and social movements.
"You know if you are going to get something done, you call Ed and his words always are 'I'll be with you,' " says attorney and former mayor Walter Washington.
Publisher Calvin Rolark calls him, "A true godfather, when we have had very few."
In the early 1950s Mazique helped integrate Washington hospitals and was involved with the first contemporary stirrings of home rule, as a member of the first Citizens Advisory Council, the grandparent of today's City Council. Throughout the 1960s he worked on the development of Medicaid and Medicare. Today, at 70, he is still waging health battles with the local DOC PAC(a political action committee of Washington doctors) and is an active adviser to politicians such as Walter Fauntroy and Charlene Drew Jarvis. And Marion Barry is one of his patients. Besides a full private practice, he is also president-elect of the medical staff at Providence Hospital, where he broke the racial barrier 30 years ago.
Mazique's energy and versatility propel him from Barry Farms to Burleigh, from the conference table of Boys Clubs of Greater Washington to the board room of the United National Bank. Both he and his second wife, Margurite Mazique, are consummate doers, in the public sphere, as well as the private world of black social clubs.
Dr. Mazique can swap anecdotes over breakfast with the president of Georgetown University, win a prize from the Bull Throwers Club at Providence and then talk about fishing with the employes at the seafood joints on 14th Street. He is equally at home in a pulpit. One Sunday he sounded like the son of Moses but when he came outside to find his hubcaps gone, he sounded like a son of Redd Foxx.
Sensitive about his age, he belies those seven decades by working a full day everyday at his office off Georgia Avenue, and hasn't cut back on any of his Wednesday and weekend commitments to civic groups. His thick, silver hair grows over his collar, giving his bronze, doughy face the dimensions of a monumental bust. When he received his Medicare card at age 65, his wife recalls, he was "really put out. When he saw the invitation for his 70th birthday party, he said, 'You are just interested in telling my age and keeping the girls away from me.' "
Around town, his bearish embraces and greetings of "honey," have led some to call him the "kissin' physician."
However, he is equally known as a mentor. LaSalle Leffall, a past president of the American Cancer Society and a surgeon who has felt his influence, says, "Eddie changed things not only by the quality of his medicine but by his activism."
Thirty years ago, Ed Mazique had a vision that would improve the quality of life in Washington's segregated society.
When he petitioned to join the staff of Providence Hospital in the early '50s, after he had helped integrate the city's public hospital and the D.C. Medical Society, he had to get the endorsement of two doctors on the staff. That was a problem. "By God, you don't have much opportunity to meet people if the door is closed, so you have no chance of saying hello," says Mazique, recalling those awkward times.
But once the support of one white doctor at Providence seemed certain, something peculiar happened. Mazique was called one Saturday morning, and his Providence sponsor suggested meeting another doctor at a football game. The first doctor insisted on picking up Mazique at his house. "Years later the sponsor Jim Kane, who is now deceased, said 'Let's go to the World Series.' In New York, a big deal in those days," says Mazique.
"And Jim said 'Hey, Ed, did I ever tell you why I didn't want to pick you up at the office?' I thought nothing of it. He said, 'I did because I wanted to see how you lived, I wanted to see what kind of home you were living in. He says, 'I never knew any colored folks other than the maid and the janitor. I didn't know if you all lived the same way. I looked around and saw you were living better than I was.' "
While he was breaking barriers, the doctor slept beside terminally ill patients, some of whom could pay only with turkeys and pies. During the 1968 riots, his glass-enclosed offices were left untouched. "The kids were kind. They would meet me, take me to the car and out of the car. On the days of the riot the kids got soap or chalk and wrote Soul Doctor," Mazique recalls, smiling.
When the caravans of Resurrection City came to Washington a few weeks later, Mazique became the coordinator of the medical team. Jerome Goldman, an ophthalmologist, remembers Mazique as a political and practical physician. "The first organizational meeting was in his back yard. Some of the black physicans and politicians thought the effort should be a black man's battle. Dr. Mazique said, 'If we were going to have a group of doctors and Washingtonians, rather than blacks or whites, we had to fight polarization,' " recalls Goldman.
Though Mazique long ago shaped his philosophy, his soft voice is replete with an evolving passion. "I think physicians should be concerned with the macrocosm, the things you can see, like drugs . . . rather than just putting an eye up to a microscope . . . I know I was told more than once, 'Hey, why, don't you stick entirely to medicine, keep your nose out of so much community affairs . . . but I contend there's not much you can do about combating malaria or TB unless you do indeed do something about the causes of it."
One of the best examples of his mentoring is his role in the development of the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. When he finished Morehouse in 1933 and Atlanta University in 1934, schooling that was only accomplished with his diligence at painting and baking to pay the tuition, there were only two medical schools for blacks. His dream was to make one of Morehouse.
Now the school has a full-fledged program, but four years ago when the plans were dragging and the faculty and college trustees were retreating on their commitment, the president remembers Mazique's urgings. "He emphasized that we had made the commitment, we had gone too far to turn back and the mission was too important. He helped jell the opinions," says Louis Sullivan.
Mazique has done more than just provide a Washington conduit for the right meetings and the right contacts with White House and Capitol Hill powerbrokers. Once when Morehouse needed to make a 5 p.m. deadline for a grant application at the National Institutes of Health, Mazique told the staff to put the papers on the Delta Dash flight to Washington. He then met the plane at National and drove the forms out to NIH. The school received the $5 million construction grant.
When Morehouse College gave him an honorary degree in 1974, Mazique discovered he had left his suitcase at home with his new suit. He was nonplussed, saying, "When I left Morehouse, I only had one suit, I'm going back with only one suit," and he wore a $39 plaid outfit he bought in Atlanta.
Mazique was teaching in a rural Georgia school, a detour on the way to Howard, when he met his first wife. They went through the hardships of medical school, had two sons, Jeffrey and Edward Houston Mazique, now both doctors, had independent careers, and grew apart.
His second wife, Margurite, is an educational specialist with the Department of Health and Human Services, and former director of the old HEW Fellows Program. By the time she married Mazique, she had had an enviable life. She grew up in the comfort of a solid, working class family in the LeDroit Park section of Washington, attended Hampton Institute, and studied in Europe. In 1948 she married Harry Belafonte and enjoyed the first years of his success. She appeared in a few movies, and then worked as an NAACP fund-raiser during the eight activist years of the late 1950s and '60s, with people like Duke Ellington, Sammy Davis Jr. and Jackie Robinson.
When she was pregnant with the first of her two daughters by Belafonte, she was visiting her parents, got sick and met Mazique. In 1965 she moved to Washington to start a charm school for disadvantaged girls. Two years later she married Mazique and blended their individual tradition of activism.
Aging and hard work doesn't intimidate either Mazique. Margurite Mazique's father worked for Shannon and Luchs until he was 90. When her husband's mother was 98 and her father 95, both died on the same day and the Maziques had a joint funeral and buried them 50 feet apart.
Their social networks cover a dizzying array of clubs such as The Group, The DePriest 15, the D.G.'s (Delta Girls), the Does, the Dolls' League, the Links and the Capital Hillbillies. By his friends' descriptions, the camera-totting Mazique is the life of the party. "We went to Trinidad, a trip sponsored by the Dolls' League," recalls Howard Law School dean Wiley Branton. "Eddie is always outgoing. One day he went fishing in Tobago, came back with a large fish, and because he had made friends with the kitchen help and the waiters, they dressed it and we had it for dinner that night."
Margurite Mazique says the energy they put into social events is a preventive against dullness. "And we are strictly eclectic with our involvement. We don't identify with any one segment. We threw away our Green Book application," she says. "We don't need a green, black or blue book."