In 1962, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital opened its doors in Memphis, Tennessee. It was the first hospital in Memphis in which black and white children could be treated together. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital focuses on the catastrophic diseases of children. What makes the hospital unique is that no child receiving care at St. Jude’s will ever be billed for their medical care.
St. Jude was founded by entertainer Danny Thomas, Dr. Lemuel Diggs and car dealer Anthony Abraham. Their chief creed for St. Jude is that “No child should die in the dawn of life.”
Pioneering African-American architect Paul R. Williams was hired to design the hospital. Williams was the first black member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Williams also a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, designed homes for Hollywood stars including Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
Williams is credited with the re-design of the Beverly Hills Hotel. Williams was the recipient of the AIA Award of Merit for his design of the MCA Building in Los Angeles as well as the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Man of the Year Award and the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP.
At Thomas’ request, Williams designed the original star-shaped foundation of the hospital building which was five spokes radiating off a central core. Thomas believed that Williams’ design was a perfect example of the star of St. Jude, though the hospital is not a Catholic facility.
Inspired by the hospital’s mission, Williams ultimately donated his design for the hospital.
Since its opening, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has treated children from more than 70 countries. Through research made possible via fundraising, the doctors of St. Jude have increased the survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common type of childhood cancer, by nearly 90 percent.
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