St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital opened in February 1962 due to the efforts of the late actor Danny Thomas. The hospital was the first integrated pediatric hospital in the South, challenging the reality of race relations at the time.
Dr. Rudolph Jackson, the first Black doctor hired to work at St. Jude, was a leader in establishing the hospital’s sickle cell disease treatment program. Thomas motivation to open the hospital was based in his desire to use his success for positive means.
A lifelong Catholic, he made a promise to the patron saint of hopeless causes, St. Jude Thaddeus, that if he were to earn fame and money, he would build a shrine in the saint’s honor. With the help of Dr. Lemuel Diggs, a leading mind in sickle cell research and his friend Anthony Abraham, the hospital pledged to treat all children of all races and backgrounds.
In 1968, Jackson was hired by St. Jude and worked with Diggs and Dr. Alfred Kraus to create the hospital’s sickle cell program. Their early efforts in combating the disease were instrumental in leading the way for a revolutionary treatment procedure. In the ’80’s, doctors at St. Jude cured a sickle cell patient via a bone marrow treatment.
In 2005, the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity named St. Jude as its national philanthropic partner. Members of the historically black fraternity have raised funds in support of St. Jude’s treatment of pediatric cancer, sickle cell, and other catastrophic diseases. The Up Til’ Dawn campaign is an inter-collegiate effort that also supports St. Jude via various fundraising methods.
In 1972, Dr. Jackson left St. Jude to join the National Institutes of Health and headed its sickle cell treatment program. Jackson also taught at Howard and Morehouse as well.
Funded largely by outside campaigns and contributions, St. Jude hosts a yearly telethon that also supports its mission.