“I think if we had lost King that day, the whole civil rights era would have been different,” Cordice said in a Harlem Hospital promotional video in 2012.
King, in his final public speech, talked about that close brush with mortality, noting that the blade had been so close to his vital organs that if he had sneezed before surgeons had a chance to remove it, he would have died.
“If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1960, when students all over the South started sitting-in at lunch counters,” he said. “If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1961, when we decided to take a ride for freedom and ended segregation in inter-state travel … If I had sneezed I wouldn’t have been here in 1963, when the black people of Birmingham, Ala., aroused the conscience of this nation, and brought into being the Civil Rights Bill. If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have had a chance later that year, in August, to try to tell America about a dream that I had had.”
Cordice, a native of Durham, N.C., earned his medical degree at New York University in 1942. He practiced medicine in the city for 40 years. He lived in Harlem and then Queens, where he was also a surgical chief at the Queens Hospital Center.