CDU: The Journey
The journey of Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science to become the medical education institution it is today began in the 1950’s.With every step our forefathers and leaders took, they confronted the inevitable wall of wide-scale racial discrimination determined to stop African-Americans from gaining the education that was their Constitutional right as citizens of the United States of America.
The Charles Drew Medical Society (an affiliate of the National Medical Association), since its inception in the early 1950s, had been working on the creation of a teaching hospital along with a medical school in the Watts-Willowbrook area of South Los Angeles. The Society began to partner with community leaders to advise this collaborative arrangement to better serve this urban and poverty-stricken community that also lacked even the most minimal medical services. The citizens of South Los Angeles confronted and fought the same battles that were being fought in the deep South. Racial discrimination and civil tension extended all the way to the far west end of the nation. African-Americans in California lived through the same hatred, biases, racial discrimination, indignities and poverty as our brothers and sisters from the South.
1960 TO 1963: EDUCATION ADVOCATES AND COMMUNITY LEADERS PUSH HARD FOR A MEDICAL UNIVERSITY IN SOUTH LOS ANGELES
In the early 1960’s, the city of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County were in constant disputes over which political jurisdiction would have access to the State and Federal health care funding with little effort being made to understand South Los Angeles residents who would receive any health care services. Historical documents and newspaper articles1 confirm that community leaders conducted meetings beginning in the mid-1950’s through 1963 to determine the economic and social costs of not having adequate medical services, a teaching hospital, and a health professions-focused university.
Residents of South Los Angeles typically took all day (using the inadequate metropolitan bus transportation system) to reach those few hospitals county-wide that would admit lower-income patients; and as a consequence, social unrest began due to that significant lack of and access to health care options within South Los Angeles in general and within the Watts-Willowbrook area in particular.
University records demonstrate a concentrated effort from 1960 to 1963 by concerned residents demanding their concerns be addressed:
* The Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) of Fremont High School formed a citizens advisory committee in early 1960 that would meet weekly at the Nola Carter Senior Citizens Center to determine community-wide strategies to address health care disparities.
* Concerned health care professionals then joined with the citizen’s advisory committee to create the Health Care Planning Council (HCPC) would meet monthly from 1961 to 1963 at the Tucker Brothers Building to discuss specific approaches to advance plans and recommendations for having a training hospital with a supporting medical school as well as conducting a feasibility study for its establishment in mid-1961.
* Concerned local, state and federal elected officials also joined with the Health Care Planning Council from 1962-63 to develop a Health Care Campaign while meeting at the Avalon Carver Center beginning early in 1962, and collectively these community leaders, health professionals, and locally elected officials made repeated presentations to local and state government officials stressing the importance of addressing those needs in an urgent manner. Area elected officials most involved in those discussions included U.S. Congressman Augustus Hawkins, State Assemblymen Mervyn Dymally and Leon Ralph, Los Angeles Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, Los Angeles City Councilmen Gilbert Lindsay and John C. Gipson, and others.
Because of the monumental groundwork laid out in the early 1960’s by two great American legislators, Augustus Hawkins and Mervyn M.Dymally, the Charles Drew University is what it is today—the only dually designated Historically Black Graduate Institution and Hispanic Serving Health Professions School in the U.S. There is no other Historically Black Graduate Institution west of the Mississippi than the Charles Drew University.
Congressman Augustus Hawkins
Augustus Hawkins devoted 28 years to the California State Assembly (14 terms) and 28 years in Congress (14 terms). Dr. Hawkins, a civil rights champion, was among the first to give the University some of the infrastructure necessary to build the University’s foundation to what it is today. Some of his early achievements that were instrumental to the formation of our Institution include:
* In 1963 to 1964, Hawkins introduced several bills, including an Amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1957 (H.R. 6336), to deny federal funding to institutions practicing racial discrimination (H.R. 6328), to provide penalties of unlawful official violence (H.R. 6334), and other actions, to correct the injustices within South Los Angeles and in similar communities around the nation. For decades thereafter, he continued to improve upon the conditions of the underserved; and yet he was unable to persuade others at that time to establish a medical school in South Los Angeles until 1966.
California State Assemblyman Mervyn M. Dymally
Elected in 1962, and during his first term, Mervyn M. Dymally introduced two bills to create the foundation of what is now known as Charles Drew University:  The StudyThe Study of the Experimental College (HR 96); and  The Study of the Master Plan of Higher Education (HR 112) in which no action was taken by the California State Assembly.
Other bills introduced by Dymally, in which the legislature took no action because of the racial discrimination rampant of the time, were included in his legislative requests for the Study of Employment Opportunities and Economic Problems (HR 197); Study of Human Rights (HR328); Study of Discriminatory Practices in Housing (HR 122); Study of Grand Jury Discrimination (HR 266); and the Study of Racial Discrimination (HR 245).
Even though he was unable to persuade others to establish a medical school in South Los Angeles until 1966, Dr. Dymally never wavered in his dedication and persevered with his constant pursuit to improve the conditions in South Los Angeles. He continued on for decades as a State Senator, Lt. Governor, and U.S. Congressman; and now once again, a State Assemblyman. He has been a true warrior for human and civil rights.
BLOOD, SWEAT, TEARS AND GLORY
In 1966, the Charles Drew University was finally born after the Watts Rebellion in August of 1965. Out of the ashes of what was once called the Los Angeles Riots which killed 34 people and injured over 1,000 others and caused extensive property damage, the McCone Commission was established. In August of 1965, Governor Edmund G. Brown appointed a special Blue Ribbon Commission to investigate the reasons for this rebellion. The Commission took the recommendations based on presentations of community leaders, the NMA, LACMA, the Charles Drew Medical Society, and various community leaders. Unfortunately, it took civil unrest in South Los Angeles and in many other cities around the nation due to racial discrimination, for President Lyndon Johnson to sign into law the Civil Rights Act of 1965.
Had it not been for the all of the racial discrimination blockage, the University would have been established as early as 1962 when Legislators Augustus Hawkins and Mervyn Dymally began their quest for a medical university in South Los Angeles. In our view, it was not the intention of the 1965 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Higher Education Act to prevent those who were making reasonable progress from being designated as a Historically Black College and University (HBCU).
 Lindsay Seeks to Block Health Units Merger, Los Angeles Times, 11/8/1963
City Would Sell Centers to County, Los Angeles Times, 1/2/1964
Health Dept. Confusion Thickens, 2/4/1964
Supervisor’s Double-Cross on Health Depts. Charged, Los Angeles Times, 2/19/1964
County OKs Health Funds for 2 Cities, Los Angeles Times, 2/26/1964
 Political Fighting Slows Up Health Programs, Los Angeles Times, 7/19/1967