Archives for : August2014

Happy 68th Birthday Peggy Lipton



Happy Birthday to actress and former model Peggy Lipton (born August 30, 1946).

Happy 42th Birthday Cameron Diaz




Happy Birthday to actress and former model Cameron Michelle Diaz (born August 30, 1972).

Happy 48th Birthday Michael Michele



Happy Birthday to film and television actress Michael Michele (born August 30, 1966).

Happy Birthday Gerald Albright

Happy Birthday Gerald Albright
 Is an American jazz saxophonist.
Albright has sold over 1,000,000 albums in the U.S. alone.
His self-produced music features him on bass guitar, keyboards, flutes, drum programming, and background vocals.
Born in Los Angeles, Albright grew up in its South Central neighborhood.
He began piano lessons at an early age, even though he professed no great interest in the instrument.
His love of music picked up considerably when he was given a saxophone that belonged to his piano teacher.
It was further reinforced when he attended Locke High School, a breeding ground for many young West Coast musicians.

After high school, he attended the University of Redlands where he received a B.S. degree in business management, minoring in music.
Already a polished saxophonist by the time he enrolled in college, Albright suddenly switched to bass guitar after he saw Louis Johnson in concert.

Immediately after college, Albright began to master his talent by working extensively in the studio with such artists as Anita Baker, Ray Parker, Jr., The Temptations, and Olivia Newton-John.
A few months after graduating from college, Gerald joined Patrice Rushen, who was in the process of forming her own band, in which he played the saxophone.
Later, when the bass player left in the middle of a tour, Albright replaced him and finished the tour on bass guitar.
Consequently, he often performed on both instruments. Around the same time he also began to tour Europe with drummer Alphonse Mouzon.

He has also toured with Jeff Lorber, Teena Marie, Quincy Jones, Whitney Houston, Phil Collins, Johnny Hallyday, Anita Baker and many others.
In addition to numerous appearances at clubs and jazz festivals, Albright had also been a part of the popular Jazz Explosion tours, which saw him teaming up with contemporary jazz stars like Will Downing, Jonathan Butler, Hugh Masekela, Chaka Khan, and Rachelle Ferrell, among others.

Albright has also made several television appearances on shows such as A Different World, Melrose Place, and BET jazz segments, as well as piloting a show in Las Vegas with Designing Women star Meshach Taylor.

Albright was one of the ten featured saxophonists who performed at Bill Clinton’s inauguration.
He was also featured at the Presidential Summit, as well as several private functions for the President.
Albright is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. Albright now lives with his family near Denver, Colorado.

Happy 79th Birthday John Phillips (August 30, 1935 – March 18, 2001)

Happy Birthday John Phillips 
(in the hat with “The Mamas & The Papas”)
An American/Canadian vocal group (Denny Doherty was from Canada) who came to prominence in the 1960s.
The group recorded and performed from 1965 to 1968 with a short reunion in 1971, releasing five albums and 11 Top 40 hit singles.
They have sold nearly 40 million records worldwide.
Their signature sound was based on four-part male/female vocal harmonies arranged by John Phillips, the band’s songwriter, who managed to “leave the folk music behind” and blend his writing with the new “beat” sound in an unprecedented mode.
After the split-up of their two previous folk groups—The Mugwumps and The New Journeymen — bandmates Denny Doherty and John Phillips formed a new group, which included John’s wife Michelle. The last member to join was Cass Elliot, though chief songwriter Phillips never wanted Elliot in the group as he was convinced that there was no way they could succeed in the music industry because of her size.
The band briefly moved to the United States Virgin Islands; after running out of money, Michelle Phillips gambled back enough for them to return to New York City.
Briefly known as The Magic Cyrcle, the group members found that they disliked the name.

One night, the band watched the Hells Angels on a television talk show; one of their members said “Now hold on there, Hoss. Some people call our women cheap, but we just call them our Mamas.”
Cass stood up and said, “Yeah! I want to be a Mama!” Michelle joined Cass; they danced around, chanting “We’re the Mamas! We’re the Mamas!” After a couple of minutes of this, John and Denny looked at each other and shrugged. “The Papas?”
From then, shortly after signing a five-album contract with Dunhill Records, they referred to themselves as The Mamas and The Papas.

The band’s first single, “Go Where You Wanna Go”, was released in 1965, failing to chart. However, the second single, “California Dreamin'”, was released later in 1965 and quickly peaked at number 4 in the US, while in the UK, it peaked at number 23.

The band’s debut album, If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears, was released in early 1966 and became the band’s only number 1 album on the Billboard 200. The third and final single from their debut was “Monday, Monday”, which became the band’s only US number 1 hit. The song brought the band international success when it peaked at number 3 in the UK Singles Chart and the first number 1 in the Spanish Los 40 Principales chart.

After it was discovered that Michelle Phillips was having an affair with Doherty, tension in the band erupted. Consulting their attorney, Abe Somer, as well as their label Dunhill Records, the band drafted a formal statement expelling Michelle from the group on June 4, 1966 – in the midst of recording their second album, The Mamas & the Papas.

At this point they hired a new singer to replace Michelle, Jill Gibson, girlfriend of their producer Lou Adler. Gibson was already a singer/songwriter who had performed on several Jan and Dean albums. Although Gibson was not known as a strong singer, she learned to sing Michelle’s parts within three weeks while the band was in London. Who sang on the second album is a disputed point, and further confused by using Jill Gibson to dub over an unknown number of vocals on the second album.

Gibson says she sang all but two songs. Rock Historian Greg Russo says studio records show Michelle had already recorded six songs for the second album with the group in April 1966, including the singles “I Saw Her Again” and “Words of Love.” Gibson recorded with John, Cass and Denny in July and early August 1966.
Michelle was asked to rejoin the group by the end of August and went right into the studio, while Gibson was let go and received an undisclosed payment for her part.

Producer Lou Adler states in the book Go Where You Wanna Go that Gibson sang on “maybe six songs”, but Michelle re-recorded them when she returned. In the same book, Michelle Phillips is quoted as saying that she does not know for sure who is singing on the second album, that she and Jill both recorded many of the same songs. Phillips says only Engineer Bones Howe and Producer Lou Adler know for sure who was on the final record.


Mirror of Freedom Magazine:Anniversary

Mirror of Freedom magazine began publication in New York City on August 30, 1838. Published by abolitionist David Ruggles, the magazine is regarded as the first created and published by an African-American. Ruggles was a passionate opponent of slavery, as seen through his other anti-slavery publications including Extinguisher, Extinguished (1834) and Abrogation of the Seventh Commandment by the American Churches (1835).

A known conductor on the Underground Railroad, he also credited for harboring Frederick Douglas, then a runaway slave, at his home in New York in 1838. Ruggles produced five issues of the periodical between 1838 and 1941.


Michael Jackson: Pepsi Accident


On January 27, 1984 Michael Jackson was accidentally burned during a performance for a taping of a new Pepsi commercial picture here, with staff at cider Sinai hospital in their burnt unit.

Michael Jackson & Fans


Happy 56th Birthday Michael Jackson (August 29, 1958- June 25,2009)

Happy Birthday Michael Jackson!
Is an American recording artist, entertainer, and businessman.
Often referred to as the King of Pop, or by his initials MJ, Jackson is recognized as the most successful entertainer of all time by Guinness World Records.
His contributions to music, dance, and fashion, along with a much-publicized personal life, made him a global figure in popular culture for over four decades.
The seventh child of the Jackson family, he debuted on the professional music scene along with his brothers as a member of The Jackson 5 in 1964, and began his solo career in 1971.In the early 1980s, Jackson became a dominant figure in popular music. The music videos for his songs, including those of “Beat It”, “Billie Jean”, and “Thriller”, were credited with breaking down racial barriers and transforming the medium into an art form and promotional tool.
The popularity of these videos helped to bring the then relatively new television channel MTV to fame. With videos such as “Black or White” and “Scream” he continued to be highly visible on MTV in the 1990s, and also began to forge a reputation as a touring artist.
Through stage and video performances, Jackson popularized a number of complicated dance techniques, such as the robot and the moonwalk, to which he gave the name.
His distinctive sound and style has influenced numerous hip hop, post-disco, contemporary R&B, pop and rock artists.
Jackson’s 1982 album Thriller is the best-selling album of all time. His other records, including Off the Wall (1979), Bad (1987), Dangerous (1991), and HIStory (1995), also rank among the world’s best-selling.
Jackson is one of the few artists to have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice. He was also inducted into the Dance Hall of Fame as the first and only dancer from pop and rock music.
Some of his other achievements include multiple Guinness World Records; 13 Grammy Awards as well as the Grammy Legend Award and the GrammyLifetime Achievement Award; 26 American Music Awards, more than any other artist, including the “Artist of the Century” and “Artist of the 1980s”; 13 number-one singles in the United States in his solo career, more than any other male artist in the Hot 100 era; and the estimated sale of over 750 million records worldwide.
Jackson won hundreds of awards, which made him the most-awarded recording artist in the history of popular music.He was also one of the world’s most prominent humanitarians and philanthropists; personally, and through his Heal the World Foundation, he donated more than $300 million in charity, holds the Guinness World Record for having supported the most charities out of any pop star, and echoed these themes throughout some of his notable songs.


Berry Gordy: On Michael Jackson





“Well it was Suzanne DePasse who grabbed me one day and she said “there’s a kids group you gotta see. They’re auditioning in the next room and we just love them, and you’re gonna love them.”

I said that “I don’t have time. If fact, I don’t like kids groups. I don’t want kids groups. I’ve got Stevie Wonder who has a major entourage.” He had his mother, he had a tutor and a chaperon. A lot of people traveled with him. So, I said no. The last thing I want is a kids group, and she said “you’ll want them!” & I said “I won’t. I won’t.” And so, she kind of [dragged] me into  the audition room. And when I saw this kid doing all this stuff, he was doing a James Brown thing and he did a twirl and a split, and then she said “you still don’t like kid groups?” and I said “no I don’t…..get my camera, get my camera!”

When they got through, I noticed he was doing his thing, on stage he was one kind of person. He was like this master!. And then when he got through, he was very quiet and almost shy. But he stared at me, the other kids would get ready for the next song, they’d be playing with the instruments, and Michael was always there staring at me, really in an innocent way, watching every move I made. And finally, I went to them and they said “Are you gonna sign us?”.

I couldn’t make up my mind because I was concerned that, here’s a kid who was about eight years old, seven or eight years old, singing a Smokey song that seemed he had been living it for thirty years, so right away we were saying “this is an old man in a kid’s body”, because he sung ‘Who’s Lovin’ You’ better than Smokey, and Smokey did a phenomenal job, but this kid was like, something…he had been here before!

And then, after singing that, he went back into a child mode. I told Suzanne “they’re gonna need something that a kid would sing”, so I just kind of came up with a melody of my own. [sings a tune of I Want You Back] I said “he should sing something like that!” Then we did [‘ABC’], ‘The Love You Save’, and ‘I’ll Be There’, and that made history because no other group, I think, before or since, had their first four records go to number one.

So it was like a major feat, and they became, like, the biggest thing. Suzanne was responsible for dressing him up and she put on him one of those little hats, and they did the Sullivan Show. He used to complain to me about his childhood and I’d say “You don’t have such a bad childhood, Michael. I mean, you’re doing what you want to do.” If people could have that thing, passion, at an early age, eight or nine, and then do it for the rest of their life…my goodness! So that was…Michael.” –Berry Gordy

Michael Jackson: Fashion Killa!



 The man, the music, the moves and the clothes!

Michael Jackson & Co.


Legendary musicians Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie, with the late great Robin Williams photo Bombing in the background!

Debbie Allen & Co.



Such great memories of celebrating Michael Jackson’s 21st Birthday at Studio 54! Happy Birthday Michael! We miss and love you! ‪#‎FlashbackFriday

Michael Jackson & Co.


Michael Jackson and Stephanie Mills!

Hurrican Katrina: 9th Anniversary


A McDonalds lies in ruins across from the beach and Highway 90 August 30, 2005 in Biloxi, Mississippi. (Photo: Barry Williams)



 man peers out of a window broken by Hurricane Katrina at the Hyatt Hotel on August 29, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty)

Happy 70th Birthday Judy Dothard Simmons (August 29, 1944-May 6, 2007)



Poet, writer, editor and broadcaster Judy Dothard Simmons was born on this day in 1944.

Judy Dothard Simmons was born in Westerly, Rhode Island, the daughter of Amanda Catherine Dothard and Edward Everett Simmons, Jr. who divorced when she was five. Simmons attended public schools in Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, and Alabama and finished at Allen High, a Methodist boarding school, in 1960.

After a year at Talladega College, she graduated California State University–Sacramento with a B.A. in psychology in 1967. Coming of age during the height of the Black Power movement, Simmons was moved by her social conscience to teach disadvantaged youths in the newly created Job Corps at Rodman Center, in New Bedford, Massachusetts. In 1968 she was among the first black female college hires at AT&T; she spent six years in corporate management.

During the Black Arts Movement, Simmons performed with Amiri Baraka (Le Roi Jones) in San Francisco and Oakland. Dudley Randall published her first poetry collection, “Judith’s Blues” (1973), with historic Broadside Press in Detroit. Her second collection, “A Light in the Dark,” containing poems and writings commissioned by Literacy Volunteers of America, was published in 1983. In 1984 Blind Beggar Press published “Decent Intentions,” her third collection of poems. In “Drumvoices,” Eugene Redmond identified her as one of New York’s up-and-coming poets.

Widely anthologized, Simmons’s poems appeared in Redmond’s “Drumvoices,” Amiri and Amina Baraka’s “Confirmation,” Quincy Troupe’s “Giant Talk,” and Stephen Henderson’s “Understanding the New Black Poetry.”

Thematically, Simmons’s work is a fierce welding of personal accomplishment with social responsibility as exampled by her father’s great-great-grandfather, the civil rights leader George T. Downing (1819–1903), an associate of Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass, and her maternal grandmother, educator Mary Julia Ross (1890–1991), who was the first of three college-educated generations—a rarity for most American families in the first half of the 20th century.

As a gifted communicator based in New York, Simmons was a respected editor with Essence, Ms., and Emerge as well as for authors Audre Lorde, Baraka, Wesley Brown, and George Davis, among others. Simmons’s writing was featured in American Legacy, Black Issues Book Review, “33 Things Every Girl Should Know about Women’s Lib” (Random House), “Wild Women Don’t Wear No Blues” (Doubleday), “The Black Woman’s Health Book” (Seal Press), “The Psychopathology of Everyday Racism and Sexism” (Harrington Press), QBR, The Village Voice, and The New York Daily News.

Simmons was an early talk-radio host (1978–1984), first on Pacifica’s WBAI-FM and then winning numerous awards for The Judy Simmons Show on Inner City Broadcasting’s WLIB-AM. Based in Alabama after mid-1991, Simmons was managing editor of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s magazine The Crisis, editor-at-large with AOL-Time Warner’s webzine (founded by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.), and an award-winning columnist for The Anniston (Alabama) Star.

Judy Dothard Simmons passed away in May 2007.


Happy 85th Birthday Albertina Walker (August 29, 1929- October 8, 2010)





Gospel music legend Albertina Walker was born on this day in 1929. Albertina Walker was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Ruben and Camille Coleman Walker. Albertina began singing in the youth choir at the West Point Baptist Church at an early age, and joined several Gospel groups thereafter, including Pete Williams Singers, The Willie Webb Singers and the Robert Anderson Singers. Albertina was greatly influenced by Mahalia Jackson, her friend and confidante, whom Jackson took on the road when Albertina was just a teenager.

In the early 1950s Walker founded her own Gospel music group The Caravans, enlisting fellow singers from The Robert Anderson Singers (Ora Lee Hopkins, Elyse Yancey and Nellie Grace Daniels). The Caravans’ membership has included: James Cleveland, Bessie Griffin, Shirley Caesar, Dorothy Norwood, Inez Andrews, Loleatta Holloway, John McNeil, Cassietta George, and Delores Washington. Her discovery of these artists resulted in the nickname “Star Maker.”

Walker retired The Caravans in the late 1960s, performing as a solo artist. In the mid-1970s, Walker signed with Savoy Records then Benson Records, Word Records, A&M Records, and other record companies, recording a series of solo projects, many of them with big church choirs including The Evangelical Choir, The Cathedral of Love Choir, The Metro Mass choir, and her own church choir, The West Point Choir. Albertina recorded her first solo project “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” in 1975.

She also recorded several projects together with Reverend James Cleveland. She has recorded over 60 albums, including gold selling hits “Please Be Patient With Me,” “I Can Go to God in Prayer,” “The Best Is Yet to Come,” “Impossible Dream,” and “Joy Will Come.” Walker sang for United States presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and South Africa’s president, Nelson Mandela. In 1995, Walker joined Thelma Houston, CeCe Peniston, Phoebe Snow and Lois Walden to record a gospel album in common, “Good News in Hard Times,” as the quintet called The Sisters of Glory.

Walker recorded a reunion album with her group The Caravans entitled “Paved the Way,” which was released by Malaco Records on September 5, 2006. Performers included Walker, Dorothy Norwood, Inez Andrews, Robert Estevis and Delores Washington. Paved the Way was nominated for a Grammy, Dove, Soul Train Music Award and two Stellar Awards. Albertina earned many awards and honors over her six decades of music ministry.

Among them, a 1995 Grammy Award for the Best Traditional Gospel Album (“Songs of The Church”); 10 Grammy Award nominations; 5 Gold Records; 3 Stellar Awards; 3 Dove Awards; several Gospel Music Workshop of America Excellence Awards; an induction into the 2001 Gospel Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee. In 2005, the Grammys honored her contributions to the Gospel music industry.

The City of Chicago paid tribute to Albertina by renaming 35th and Cottage Grove “Albertina Walker and The Caravans Drive.” Albertina was also conferred an honorary Doctor of Letters Degree by the Chicago Theological Seminary, an institution of the University of Chicago.

Walker co-founded the Gospel Music Workshop of America along with James Cleveland. Albertina also lent her support to many charitable organizations such as United Negro College Fund, American Cancer Society, National Council of Negro Women, Nation of Islam’s Million Family March, One Voice: “A Fight Against AIDS,” NAACP and Operation Push. In 1988 Albertina Walker founded The Albertina Walker Scholarship Foundation for the Creative and Performing Arts.

Her foundation offers financial assistance to college students in the form of scholarships to further their education in the field of music. Albertina Walker passed away in October 2010 at the age of 81. See the comments for a performance by the Queen of Gospel, “I Can Go to God in Prayer.”

Isabel Sanford (August 29, 1917 – July 9, 2004)



Remembering Isabel Sanford (August 29, 1917 – July 9, 2004)…stage, film and television actress best known for her role as Louise “Weezy” Jefferson on the CBS sitcoms All in the Family (1971–1975) and The Jeffersons (1975–1985). In 1981, she became the first African American actress to win a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.

Happy 104th “Vivien Theodore Thomas (August 29, 1910 – November 26, 1985)



Vivien Theodore Thomas (August 29, 1910 – November 26, 1985)

Was a surgical technician who developed the procedures used to treat blue baby syndrome in the 1940s. He was the assistant to surgeon Alfred Blalock in Blalock’s experimental animal laboratory at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and later at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. He served as supervisor of the surgical laboratories at Johns Hopkins for 35 years.

In 1976 Hopkins awarded him an honorary doctorate and named him an instructor of surgery for the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Without any education past high school, Dr. Thomas rose above poverty and racism to become a cardiac surgery pioneer and a teacher of operative techniques to many of the country’s most prominent surgeons. He was the first African American without a doctorate to perform open heart surgery on a white patient in the United States.

There is a television film based on his life entitled Something The Lord Made which premiered May 2004 on HBO.

Dr. Thomas was born in New Iberia, Louisiana. The grandson of a slave, he attended Pearl High School in Nashville in the 1920s. Thomas had hoped to attend college and become a doctor, but the Great Depression derailed his plans.

He worked at Vanderbilt University in the summer of 1929 doing carpentry but was laid off in the fall. In the wake of the stock market crash in October, Thomas put his educational plans on hold, and, through a friend, in February 1930 secured a job as surgical research technician with Dr. Alfred Blalock at Vanderbilt University. On his first day of work, Thomas assisted Blalock with a surgical experiment on a dog. At the end of Thomas’s first day, Blalock told Thomas they would do another experiment the next morning.

Blalock told Thomas to “come in and put the animal to sleep and get it set up”. Within a few weeks, Thomas was starting surgery on his own. Thomas was classified and paid as a janitor, despite the fact that by the mid-1930s, he was doing the work of a postdoctoral researcher in the lab.

Before meeting Blalock, Thomas married Clara and had two daughters. When Nashville’s banks failed nine months after starting his job with Blalock and Thomas’ savings were wiped out, he abandoned his plans for college and medical school, relieved to have even a low-paying job as the Great Depression deepened.

Thomas and Blalock did groundbreaking research into the causes of hemorrhagic and traumatic shock. This work later evolved into research on crush syndrome and saved the lives of thousands of soldiers on the battlefields of World War II. In hundreds of experiments, the two disproved traditional theories which held that shock was caused by toxins in the blood.

Blalock, a highly original scientific thinker and something of an iconoclast, had theorized that shock resulted from fluid loss outside the vascular bed and that the condition could be effectively treated by fluid replacement. Assisted by Thomas, he was able to provide incontrovertible proof of this theory, and in so doing, he gained wide recognition in the medical community by the mid-1930s. At this same time, Blalock and Thomas began experimental work in vascular and cardiac surgery, defying medical taboos against operating upon the heart. It was this work that laid the foundation for the revolutionary lifesaving surgery they were to perform at Johns Hopkins a decade later.

By 1940, the work Blalock had done with Thomas placed him at the forefront of American surgery, and when he was offered the position of Chief of Surgery at his alma mater Johns Hopkins in 1941, he requested that Thomas accompany him. Thomas arrived in Baltimore with his family in June of that year, confronting a severe housing shortage and a level of racism worse than they had endured in Nashville. Hopkins, like the rest of Baltimore, was rigidly segregated, and the only black employees at the institution were janitors. When Thomas walked the halls in his white lab coat, many heads turned.

In 1943, while pursuing his shock research, Blalock was approached by renowned pediatric cardiologist Helen Taussig, who was seeking a surgical solution to a complex and fatal four-part heart anomaly called Tetralogy of Fallot (also known as blue baby syndrome, although other cardiac anomalies produce blueness, or cyanosis). In infants born with this defect, blood is shunted past the lungs, thus creating oxygen deprivation and a blue pallor. Having treated many such patients in her work in Hopkins’s Harriet Lane Home, Taussig was desperate to find a surgical cure.

According to the accounts in Thomas’s 1985 autobiography and in a 1967 interview with medical historian Peter Olch, Taussig suggested only that it might be possible to “reconnect the pipes” in some way to increase the level of blood flow to the lungs but did not suggest how this could be accomplished. Blalock and Thomas realized immediately that the answer lay in a procedure they had perfected for a different purpose in their Vanderbilt work, involving the anastomosis, or joining, of the subclavian to the pulmonary artery, which had the effect of increasing blood flow to the lungs.

Thomas was charged with the task of first creating a blue baby-like condition in a dog, and then correcting the condition by means of the pulmonary-to-subclavian anastomosis. Among the dogs on whom Thomas operated was one named Anna, who became the first long-term survivor of the operation and the only animal to have her portrait hung on the walls of Johns Hopkins. In nearly two years of laboratory work, involving some 200 dogs, Thomas was ultimately able to replicate only two of the four cardiac anomalies involved in Tetralogy of Fallot. He did demonstrate that the corrective procedure was not lethal, thus persuading Blalock that the operation could be safely attempted on a human patient. Even though Thomas knew he was not allowed to operate on patients at that time, he still followed Blalock’s rules and assisted him during surgery.

On November 29, 1944, the procedure was first tried on an eighteen-month-old infant named Eileen Saxon. The blue baby syndrome had made her lips and fingers turn blue, with the rest of her skin having a very faint blue tinge. She could only take a few steps before beginning to breathe heavily. Because no instruments for cardiac surgery then existed, Thomas adapted the needles and clamps for the procedure from those in use in the animal lab.

During the surgery itself, at Blalock’s request, Thomas stood on a step stool at Blalock’s shoulder and coached him step by step through the procedure, Thomas performed the operation hundreds of times on a dog, whereas Blalock only once as Thomas’ assistant. The surgery was not completely successful, though it did prolong the infant’s life for several more months. Blalock and his team operated again on an 11-year-old girl, this time with complete success, and the patient was able to leave the hospital three weeks after the surgery. Next, they operated upon a six-year-old boy, who dramatically regained his color at the end of the surgery. The three cases formed the basis for the article that was published in the May 1945 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, giving credit to Blalock and Taussig for the procedure. Thomas received no mention.

News of this groundbreaking story was circulated around the world by the Associated Press. Newsreels touted the event, greatly enhancing the status of Johns Hopkins and solidifying the reputation of Blalock, who had been regarded as a maverick up until that point by some in the Hopkins old guard. Thomas’ contribution remained unacknowledged, both by Blalock and by Hopkins.

Within a year, the operation known as the Blalock-Taussig shunt had been performed on more than 200 patients at Hopkins, with parents bringing their suffering children from thousands of miles away. Thomas’s surgical techniques included one he developed in 1946 for improving circulation in patients whose great vessels (the aorta and the pulmonary artery) were transposed.[29] A complex operation called an atrial septectomy, the procedure was executed so flawlessly by Thomas that Blalock, upon examining the nearly undetectable suture line, was prompted to remark, “Vivien, this looks like something the Lord made”.

To the host of young surgeons Thomas trained during the 1940s, he became a figure of legend, the model of a dexterous and efficient cutting surgeon. “Even if you’d never seen surgery before, you could do it because Vivien made it look so simple,” the renowned surgeon Denton Cooley told Washingtonian magazine in 1989. “There wasn’t a false move, not a wasted motion, when he operated.”

Surgeons like Cooley, along with Alex Haller, Frank Spencer, Rowena Spencer, and others credited Thomas with teaching them the surgical technique that placed them at the forefront of medicine in the United States. Despite the deep respect Thomas was accorded by these surgeons and by the many black lab technicians he trained at Hopkins, he was not well paid. He sometimes resorted to working as a bartender, often at Blalock’s parties.

This led to the peculiar circumstance of his serving drinks to people he had been teaching earlier in the day. Eventually, after negotiations on his behalf by Blalock, he became the highest paid technician at Johns Hopkins by 1946, and by far the highest paid African-American on the institution’s rolls. Although Thomas never wrote or spoke publicly about his ongoing desire to return to college and obtain a medical degree, his widow, the late Clara Flanders Thomas, revealed in a 1987 interview with Washingtonian writer Katie McCabe that her husband had clung to the possibility of further education throughout the Blue Baby period and had only abandoned the idea with great reluctance.

Mrs. Thomas stated that in 1947, Thomas had investigated the possibility of enrolling in college and pursuing his dream of becoming a doctor, but had been deterred by the inflexibility of Morgan State University, which refused to grant him credit for life experience and insisted that he fulfill the standard freshman requirements. Realizing that he would be 50 years old by the time he completed college and medical school, Thomas decided to give up the idea of further education.

Blalock’s approach to the issue of Thomas’s race was complicated and contradictory throughout their 34-year partnership. On the one hand, he defended his choice of Thomas to his superiors at Vanderbilt and to Hopkins colleagues, and he insisted that Thomas accompany him in the operating room during the first series of tetralogy operations. On the other hand, there were limits to his tolerance, especially when it came to issues of pay, academic acknowledgment, and his social interaction outside of work.

After Blalock’s death from cancer in 1964 at the age of 65,[36] Thomas stayed at Hopkins for 15 more years. In his role as director of Surgical Research Laboratories, he mentored a number of African-American lab technicians as well as Hopkins’ first black cardiac resident, Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr., whom Thomas assisted with his groundbreaking work in the use of the Automatic Implantable Defibrillator.

Thomas’ nephew, Koco Eaton, graduated from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, trained by many of the same physicians his uncle had trained. Eaton trained in orthopedics and is now the team doctor for the Tampa Bay Rays.

In 1968, the surgeons Thomas trained — who had then become chiefs of surgical departments throughout America — commissioned the painting of his portrait (by Bob Gee, oil on canvas, 1969, The Johns Hopkins Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives) and arranged to have it hung next to Blalock’s in the lobby of the Alfred Blalock Clinical Sciences Building.

In 1976, Johns Hopkins University presented Thomas with an honorary doctorate. Because of certain restrictions, he received an Honorary Doctor of Laws, rather than a medical doctorate, but it did allow the staff and students of Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine to call him doctor. After having worked there for 37 years, Thomas was also finally appointed to the faculty of the School of Medicine as Instructor of Surgery.

In July 2005, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine began the practice of splitting incoming first year students into four colleges, each named for famous Hopkins faculty members that had major impacts on the history of medicine. Thomas was chosen as one of the four, along with Helen Taussig, Florence Sabin, and Daniel Nathans

Following his retirement in 1979, Thomas began work on an autobiography,. He died on November 26, 1985, of pancreatic cancer, at age 75, and the book was published just days later. Having learned about Thomas on the day of his death, Washingtonian writer Katie McCabe brought his story to public attention for the first time in a 1989 article entitled “Like Something the Lord Made”, which won the 1990 National Magazine Award for Feature Writing and inspired filmmaker Andrea Kalin to make the PBS documentary “Partners of the Heart” which was broadcast in 2003 on PBS’s American Experience and won the Organization of American Historian’s Erik Barnouw Award for Best History Documentary in 2004. McCabe’s article, brought to Hollywood by Washington, D.C. dentist Irving Sorkin, formed the basis for the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning 2004 HBO film Something the Lord Made.

Thomas’s legacy as an educator and scientist continued with the institution of the Vivien Thomas Young Investigator Awards, given by the Council on Cardiovascular Surgery and Anesthesiology beginning in 1996. In 1993, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation instituted the Vivien Thomas Scholarship for Medical Science and Research sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline.

In Fall 2004, the Baltimore City Public School System opened the Vivien T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy, and on January 29, 2008, MedStar Health unveiled the first “Rx for Success” program at the Academy, joining the conventional curriculum with specialized coursework geared to the health care professions. In the halls of the school hangs a replica of Thomas’s portrait commissioned by his surgeon-trainees in 1969. The Journal Of Surgical Case Reports (JSCR) announced in January 2010 that their annual prizes for the best case report written by a doctor and best case report written by a medical student would be named after Thomas.”


Happy 69th Birthday Wyomia Tyus




Happy Birthday Wyomia Tyus, the first athlete (male or female!) to win the Olympic gold medal for the 100m sprint two times. She was only 19 when she won her first Olympic gold at the Tokyo Games. Tyus was born today in 1945! More on the history of women & sports:

This website content was created with the help of Ultimate Tinymce!

%d bloggers like this: