On September 20, 1958 in Harlem Hospital, Dr. W.V. Cordice Jr. worked with a team of surgeons to help save the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – then 29 years old – from a stab wound to the chest. The blade had missed his aorta by millimeters, and doctors said a sneeze could have caused him to bleed to death. “I think if we had lost King that day, the whole civil rights era could have been different,” Dr. Cordice said.
Dr. John Cordice sitting in his home with a photo of the operating room the night Dr. King was stabbed.
Dr. Cordice was a modest hero. He remained quiet about his feat until a 2012 interview with the public radio station WNYC. “It is entirely consistent with his character that many who knew him may well not have known that he was also part of history,” said Alan D. Aviles, the president of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation.
Some of Dr. Cordice’s other astounding medical contributions include serving as a doctor for the Tuskegee Airmen, the famed group of African-American WWII pilots, and being part of the team that performed the first open-heart surgery in France.
Read more about Dr. Cordice in his New York Times obituary.