Surgeon who helped save Martin Luther King Jr. from stabbing dies at 95

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A New York City surgeon who helped save Martin Luther King Jr. from a nearly fatal stab wound in 1958 died of natural causes, according to the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation. He was 95.

The death of Dr. John W.V. Cordice was announced Tuesday by the city agency that oversees Harlem Hospital Center, where the doctor was formerly a chief of thoracic surgery, NBC 4 New York reported.

“He was a brilliant clinical practitioner, a wise and thoughtful teacher, and a man of deep and abiding kindness and quiet modesty,” said HHC President Alan D. Aviles. “It is entirely consistent with his character that many who knew him may well not have known that he was also a part of history.”

Dr. Cordice was off duty in Brooklyn when Mr. King, then 29, was taken to Lenox Ave. hospital after being stabbed with a letter opener by Izola Curry, a mentally disturbed woman who attacked the civil rights leader at a book signing in Harlem.

“We raced on in to Harlem Hospital and when I went into the emergency room, of course, the crowd was beginning to gather and then I was informed that Dr. King had been injured,” Dr. Cordice told WNYC radio station in a 2012 interview, the New York Daily News reported.

FILE - In this Sept. 21, 1958 file photo, Martin Luther King Jr. recovers from surgery in bed at New York's Harlem Hospital on following an operation to remove steel letter opener from his chest after being stabbed by a mentally disturbed woman as he signed books in Harlem. The New York City surgeon, Dr. John W.V. Cordice, who was part of the medical team that saved King the nearly fatal stab wound has died at the age of 95. The death was announced Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, by the city agency that oversees Harlem Hospital Center, where Cordice was formerly an attending surgeon and chief of thoracic surgery. (AP Photo/John Lent., File)

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FILE - In this Sept. 21, 1958 file photo, Martin Luther King ... more >

The operation to remove the blade was overseen by the hospital’s chief surgeon, Dr. Aubre Maynard, and performed by Dr. Cordice and Dr. Emil Naclerio, NBC reported.

“I think if we had lost King that day, the whole civil rights era would have been different,” Mr. Cordice said in a Harlem Hospital promotional video in 2012, NBC 4 said.

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