- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 3, 2007

FREDERICK, Md. — Black history was far from 10-year-old Sam Williamson’s mind when he decided to research the life of Ulysses Grant Bourne for a Frederick County student essay contest.

Sam, who is white, said he picked Dr. Bourne, the county’s first black doctor, “because he had the coolest name” among the list of lesser-known local figures offered by the Historical Society of Frederick County.

But Sam became enthralled by Dr. Bourne’s early 20th-century achievements, which included founding the Frederick chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, establishing a hospital for blacks in the then-segregated city of Frederick and, nearly as impressive to the basketball-crazed student, bringing the Harlem Globetrotters in to play in a Frederick church basement and eat dinner at the doctor’s house.

Sam won $100 in the contest last school year, but he didn’t stop there. He went on to raise $19,000 for a bronze bust of Dr. Bourne that will be placed later this year at Frederick Memorial Hospital.

“I wanted the whole world to know what he did and how good of a role model he was,” said Sam, a fifth-grade student at Ballenger Creek Elementary School.

Sam also gained an honorary grandmother — Dr. Bourne’s 83-year-old daughter, Dr. I. Blanche Bourne, who is tickled by the public attention Sam’s projects have brought to her father’s work.

“He’s quite a boy,” she said.

Sam’s mother, Leslie, a middle-school math teacher, joked that Sam, the youngest of the four Williamson children, knows more about Dr. Bourne’s family than he does about her Jewish heritage or his father Jeff’s Irish and Welsh ancestry.

But ethnic and racial distinctions don’t matter much to Sam, whose school is 77 percent white and 14 percent black, with a smattering of Hispanic and Asian students. Like others in his class, he studied America’s struggles with slavery and civil rights, but it was Dr. Bourne’s accomplishments, and not the obstacles he overcame, that fascinated Sam.

“To do all the things that he was able to do was amazing,” Sam said.

He learned that Dr. Bourne delivered about 2,600 babies, black and white, from 1903 to 1953. Sam was surprised that the doctor allowed his patients, most of whom were white, to pay for his services with fruits and vegetables.

Dr. Bourne’s generosity extended to education, Sam learned: “He paid for someone to go to college, and when they graduated from college, they would pay him back.”

Because blacks weren’t allowed in the local opera house, Dr. Bourne and his friends built their own elegant music venue, the Pythian Castle, in Frederick. Dr. Bourne and a nurse did public health work around the county, Sam learned.

Dr. Bourne, a Calvert County native who attended Leonard Medical College in Raleigh, N.C., founded the statewide Negro Medical Society in 1940. He also ran as a Republican for the state House of Delegates and worked behind the scenes for local political candidates, Sam learned from Dr. Bourne’s daughter.

“He was quite a community-minded person, very open and selfless, and was quite involved with everything around here in a quiet way,” said Blanche Bourne, a retired pediatrician who is the youngest of Dr. Bourne’s three children.

Sam’s fundraising campaign for Dr. Bourne’s memorial included letters to local political leaders and speeches to civic groups, including the NAACP, which gave $1,000.

Sam’s work isn’t done. He still needs about $1,500 for a pedestal on which to place the bust that artist Steven Weitzman is making in his Brentwood studio. The sculpture should be finished this summer, Mrs. Williamson said.

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