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Sun Gazette: Arlington Historical Society draws diverse crowd Print


Created:  Tuesday, June 16, 2015 6:30AM


More than 80 community leaders were on hand as the Arlington Historical Society held its annual banquet June 5 at the Holiday Inn Rosslyn.

The annual celebration of local history was keynoted by Dr. Charlene Drew Jarvis, a veteran educator and political leader (including service on the D.C. City Council) and the daughter of Dr. Charles Drew, a pioneering physician and educator who made his home in Arlington.

The Drew family lived at 2505 1st St. South, and members of the family still live in the house today.

In her speech, titled "Roots and Wings: The Arlington Connection of the Charles Drew Family," Jarvis spoke movingly about her father's family moving to Arlington in 1920, and the obstacles they faced as African-Americans.

Dr. Drew attended Amherst College and McGill University Medical School in Canada, which welcomed black students. Not one to give in to racism, Dr. Drew lived by his motto, "Excellence of performance will overcome any obstacles by man."

Jarvis remarked that her father was a stern disciplinarian and held high expectations for his children.

"My father was always setting the bar higher – I think that's why I've reinvented myself so many times," she quipped to much laughter.

Dr. Drew built his expertise in storing plasma, which does not require blood type or refrigeration, and it was this development that saved so many Allied soldiers' lives during World War II. He also began the first American Red Cross blood bank. In an ironic twist, African-Americans were forbidden from donating blood, a segregation practice that ended only in the 1950s.

Dr. Drew died in 1950 at the age of 45 in North Carolina, after a car accident while driving a group of Howard University medical residents to a conference in Tuskegee. Since blacks would be turned away from hotels in the South, Dr. Drew fell asleep at the wheel after driving all night following a full day's work.

(Jarvis refuted the myth that her father was not treated at a hospital on account of the color of his skin. In fact, he was treated, but his injuries were so severe that he soon died.)

"He lived a short life, but with a powerful outcome," Dr. Jarvis concluded.

The event attracted all five members of the County Board. Among them, board member Jay Fisette said the Jarvis speech represented "just the right mix of personal and professional reminiscence."

The Arlington Historical Society has several of Dr. Drew's effects, including his saxophone and a set of eyeglasses, which are part of a new permanent exhibit at the Hume School about the African-American experience in Arlington.

At the dinner, historical society president Karl Van Newkirk presented two awards:

• The 2015 Cornelia B. Rose Award was given to journalist and raconteur Charlie Clark, whose column, "Our Man in Arlington," appears weekly in the Falls Church News-Press, and whose recent book, "Arlington County Chronicles," containing 106 of those columns about Arlington life and history, has added a great deal to understanding of the community.

• The 2015 Volunteer of the Year Award went to the Friends of Hume School, which maintains the grounds surrounding the Arlington Historical Museum through its twice-annual cleanups, weeding and mulching. Chick Walter, the organizer and driving force behind the Friends, accepted the award on behalf of the group.

In addition to County Board members, the event was attended by School Board members James Lander and Abby Raphael; Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th); and Warren Nelson, who chairs the county's Sesquicentennial of the Civil War Commission. Society officials said participation from across the community demonstrated the widening recognition the historical society is receiving for its revamped programs and community outreach and participation.

At the dinner, Bill Hamrock, owner of Bistro 29 (formerly Pasha Café), displayed his extensive collection of "Arlingtoniana," which attracted a steady stream of viewers. Hamrock is the author of "We Are Arlington," a pictorial history book of Arlington County.