A bust of Dr. Charles R. Drew, the pioneering black surgeon whose development of the modern blood bank is credited with saving countless lives, was presented at the White House yesterday to be installed at the National Institutes of Health.
Vice President Walter Mondale accepted the bronze likeness on behalf of the government at a ceremony that coincided with the beginning of Black History Month.
Drew's widow Lenore and his daughter, D.C. City Council member Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4), listened with other family members and friends as Mondale called the Washington native "one of the most remarkable medical men in the history of our country."
Drew, who was killed in an automobile accident in 1950 at the age of 45, supervised the "Blood for Britain" effort that collected more than 14,000 pints of plasma during World War Ii, and was director of the first American Red Cross Blood Bank.
Ironically, Drew himself was at the time ineligible to donate blood to the Red Cross. The organization first refused to accept blacks as donors and later segregated blood according to the donor's race, although as Drew pointed out in 1942 there was "no scientific basis" for doing so.
Drew resigned his Red Cross post after five months, largely because of the segregation policy, and became professor and chief of surgery at what then was Freedmen's Hospital, now Howard University Hospital.
"If anyone in America had the right to be bitter, to backslide, to feel unappreciated for his great contribution to his country, he did," Mondale said. "Yet, he took it with a sense of accomplishment.
"He was a great medical genius," the Vice President went on, "but more than that he was a profound and dedicated human being, dedicated to the cause of justice."
Drew spent the rest of his life promoting medical education for blacks. During his tenure at Howard, more than half the black surgeons in the country were his students.
The bust was presented to Mondale by Dr. Donald Parks, chairman of the Charles Drew Award Committee, a Philadelphia-based organization supported by more than 600 minority physicians.
The bust is one of the 30 cast for the committee in 1978 by sculptors Alex Genralis and Thomas Miles. Other busts have been presented to such institutions as Howard University Medical School and Morehouse Medical College in Atlanta.
Also attending yesterday's ceremony in the Roosevelt Room of the White House were Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Patricia Harris, who said she knew Drew when she was an under graduate at Howard, and U.S. Surgeon General Julius Richmond.
Richmond said the bust would find a permanent home at the sprawling, campus-like NIH complex on Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda, though he said the exact location had not yet been determined.
Born in 1904, Drew attended Stevens Elementary School and Dunbar High School here. His widow still lives in the Gold Coast area of Upper Northwest.
Drew received the NAACP's Spingarn Medal for "the highest and noblest achievement" in 1943.
His tenure at Howard was cut short on April 1, 1950, by a tragic auto accident near Burlington, N.C.
He and three other Howard physicians were driving to Tuskeegee, Ala., to attend a medical symposium when Drew, trying to make the trip on two hours' sleep, fell asleep at the wheel and the car overturned.
The others escaped with relatively minor injuries. Drew was killed.