Charles Drew was born June 3, 1904 in Washington D.C. He was the oldest of five children. He attended Amherst College, where he was a star athlete, All-American half-back and was captain of his football team. After graduation he was a coach, biology, and chemistry instructor for Morgan State College in Baltimore, Maryland. Drew resigned his job at Morgan State and went to Montreal, Canada where he enrolled at McGill University’s Medical School. He was granted two fellowships and was awarded his doctorate of medicine and master of surgery degrees.
In 1935, he returned to the United States to accept an appointment as
instructor in pathology at the College of Medicine of Howard University in
Washington D.C. Within two years he advanced to become assistant professor
of surgery. He married in 1939 and was the father of four children. Dr. Drew
earned his Doctor of Medicine degree from Columbia University in 1940 with a
200 page doctoral thesis under the title “Banked Blood: A Study in Blood
Dr. Drew was named director of the Red Cross Blood Bank and assistant director of the National Research Council, in charge of blood collection for the United States Army and Navy. The pilot center was set up through the Red Cross chapter in New York City and began operation in February 1941. He had spent a total of seven months in the two blood projects, and became highly successful with the World War II blood procurement effort.
He was one of the first African Americans to be selected for membership in the American Board of Surgery. He also received the Spingarn Medal of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1944 for his outstanding contribution to human welfare. The experience he gained through his efforts at the Red Cross New York center proved invaluable, and during World War II, 35 blood bank centers were in operation. By war’s end, millions of donations had been received by the Red Cross, donations that made possible the saving of thousands of lives of wounded U.S. servicemen lives that would have been lost in earlier wars when blood therapy was unknown.
Dr. Drew was only 45 years old while driving to a scientific conference when he was tragically killed in an automobile accident on April 1, 1950. His pioneering medical work has endured. Many lives have been saved because of his genius at turning basic biological research into practical production methods. It is a certainty that mankind owes a debt of gratitude to Dr. Charles Richard Drew.