Charles DeWitt Watts papers, 1917-2004 and undated
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- Watts, Charles DeWitt
- Pioneering African American surgeon who was chief of surgery at Lincoln Hospital, clinical professor of surgery at Duke University, founder of Lincoln Community Health Center, director of student health at North Carolina Central University, and vice president and medical director for North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, all in Durham, N.C. Spanning the period of 1917 to 2004, the Charles DeWitt Watts Papers contain files related to Watts's education, family, community activities, centered in Durham, N.C., and his career as a surgeon, administrator, and trustee on several boards. There is material on the formation in 1901 of Lincoln Hospital, a medical care facility for African Americans in Durham, N.C.. and other items on the early 20th century history of Durham, but the bulk of the papers relate to the later half of the 20th century. Formats primarily consist of correspondence, reports, notes, speeches, photographs, and print materials. It is organized into the following series: Community Relations, Personal Files, Photographic Materials, and Professional Files. Material in the Medical Records Series have been separated and are currently closed to use. Acquired as part of the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture.
- 13.6 Linear Feet
Approximately 7249 Items
- Material in English
- Collection ID:
- Scope and content:
Spanning the dates 1917 to 2004, the Charles DeWitt Watts Papers contain files related to Watts's education, family, community activities, centered in Durham, N.C., and his career as a surgeon, administrator, and trustee on several boards. The bulk of the material dates from 1970 to 2000. The collection primarily consists of correspondence, reports, notes, speeches, photographs, and print materials, and is organized into the following series: Community Relations, Personal Files, Photographic Materials, and Professional Files. Material containing personally-identifiable medical information in the Medical Records Series has been separated from the other professional files and is currently closed to use.
Largest in the collection is the Professional Files Series, which primarily contains administrative documents related to Watts's career as a doctor, surgeon, and medical administrator for various private practices, hospitals, boards, and professional societies. Of particular note are files related to Watt's mentor, Dr. Charles Drew, the history of Lincoln Hospital, and the establishment of the Lincoln Community Health Center in 1970. The folders in the Medical Records Series have been separated and are currently closed to use. The Community Relations Series concerns Watts's professional life outside of medicine, containing files related to his membership in churches and fraternal organizations, non-medically-related boards on which he served, his work with Durham, N.C. organizations, his interest in race relations, and honors awarded him. Also included are the papers of Constance Watts (wife), Lyda Merrick (mother-in-law), and Margaret Smith (a nurse in his office). Of special interest is a scrapbook about the Negro Braille Magazine (now the Merrick-Washington Magazine for the Blind), founded by Mrs. Merrick.
Some professional correspondence is also intermixed in the Personal Files Series, which contains papers related to Watts's family, friends, finances, education, and alumni activities. Of particular note is a transcript of Watts's oral history. Containing both professional and personal content, the Photographic Materials Series contains photographs, slides, and negatives. The bulk consists of portraits and snapshots of the Watts family. Of particular note are early photographs of Lincoln Hospital nursing students and staff members.
Acquired as part of the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture.
- Biographical / historical:
Born in Atlanta, Georgia on September 21, 1917, Charles DeWitt Watts was a pioneering African American surgeon. Watts graduated from Morehouse College with a degree in mathematics in 1938. He received his medical degree in 1943 from Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C., where he was mentored by Dr. Charles R. Drew, a pioneer of blood collection and plasma processing. Watts completed his surgical training at Freedman's Hospital in Washington, D.C. from 1943-1948 and worked at Howard as instructor of surgery and director of the cancer clinic from 1948-1949.
In 1945, Watts married Constance Merrick Watts, the granddaughter of North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company founders, John Merrick and Dr. A.M. Moore. They had four children. In 1950, the Watts family returned to Constance's hometown of Durham, North Carolina, where Watts set up a private practice and joined the staff of Lincoln Hospital. He was the first African American to be certified by a surgical specialty board in North Carolina. During his medical career, he served as Director of Student Health at North Carolina Central University (1952-1960), Chief of Surgery at Lincoln Hospital (1965-1976), Attending Surgeon at Watts Hospital (1968-1976) and Durham County General Hospital (1976-1987), and Adjunct Clinical Professor of Surgery at Duke. He retired from private practice in 1988 but continued to consult and teach.
Watts worked for civil rights and quality medical care for Durham residents. He was one of the founders and served on the Board of Durham County General Hospital (now Durham Regional Hospital), the first desegregated hospital in Durham. When Lincoln Hospital closed its doors after the opening of Durham Regional, Watts was instrumental in turning it into the Lincoln Community Health Center, an outpatient clinic dedicated to serving Durham residents regardless of income; he served as its first Medical Director for a year until Dr. Evie Schmidt was hired as its permanent head. Watts also served as Vice-President and Medical Director of the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company from 1960-1988. From 1978-1993, he was a trustee of Howard University, where he oversaw the university's medical enterprise and engineered the Board's governance reform. In 2002, Duke University Medical School created the Charles Watts Travel Award to help fund faculty and student travel to study culturally specific issues. Charles DeWitt Watts passed away in Durham on July 12, 2004 at the age of 86.
- Acquisition information:
- The Charles DeWitt Watts Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as a gift in 2005, 2008, and 2013.
- Processing information:
Processed by Meghan Lyon and Elizabeth Shesko, December 2008 and April 2011.
Encoded by Meghan Lyon, Paula Jeannet, and Elizabeth Shesko, December 2008 and April 2011.
Accessions 2005-0050, 2008-0312, and 2013-0170 were merged into one collection, described in this finding aid.
Finding aid updated to include addition by Alice Poffinberger, February 2014.
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- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Click on terms below to find related finding aids on this site. For other related materials in the Duke University Libraries, search for these terms in the Catalog.
- Blind, Periodicals for the
Health care reform -- United States
African Americans -- Medical care -- History
African American surgeons
Minorities -- Medical care -- North Carolina -- History -- 20th century
Hospitals -- North Carolina -- Durham -- History
Health facilities -- North Carolina -- Durham
- Lincoln Hospital (Durham, N.C.) -- History
Howard University Medical Alumni Association, Inc.
Howard University. Board of Trustees
Duke University. Medical Center -- History
North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company
Sigma Pi Phi
Drew, Charles Richard, 1904-1950
Watts, Charles DeWitt
Watts, Constance Merrick
- Durham (N.C.) -- History -- 20th century
Durham (N.C.) -- Race relations -- 20th century
North Carolina -- Race relations
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[Identification of item], Charles DeWitt Watts Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University