Local News

Questions Surround Death Of Dr. Charles Drew

Posted March 4, 2002 2:52 a.m. EST

— As a scientist and surgeon, Dr. Charles Drew made discoveries that revolutionized the field of medicine. His life was tragically cut short in 1950 at age 45 in Alamance County, N.C. To this day, many people still have questions about what happened the day Drew died.

Dr. Charles Watts remembers Drew, his medical school professor, as a great educator.

"He was my teacher. When he came into a room, he lit up the room," Watts said.

The rest of the world remembers Drew for many reasons. He was a pioneer, training young African-Americans doctors at Howard University. In 1940, he developed the nation's first blood bank.

"That was his contribution to science," Watts said.

Early one morning in April 1950, Dr. Drew and three other doctors were traveling along Highway 49 in Alamance County from Washington, D.C. to Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.

Drew had been driving all night when he fell asleep and veered off the road. The car flipped several times. Drew died as a result of his injuries, but the details of his death to this day are full of controversy.

Some claim that Drew, a foe of racial injustice, died because Alamance General Hospital refused to treat him. Others claimed the man who once headed the Red Cross was denied a blood transfusion.

Watts was also on his way to Tuskegee that day. He was not in the same car with Drew, but he said Drew died from his injuries, not racism.

"I'm speaking after three men who were in the car with him. It was their impression that everything was done that was possible to try and save his life," Watts said. "They closed the hospital to try to save him."

Fifty-two years later, some people still believe Drew was a victim of racism. Watts hopes one day they will hear what he says is the real story.

"It's going to be hard to kill it mainly because those things did occur," he said.