The official version of the story from Wake Forest University has long been that a "New York philanthropist with a deep interest in population genetics" made a $100,000 gift of stock to the fledgling Department of Medical Genetics in 1953 - the equivalent of more than $650,000 today.
The whole story is this: The philanthropist was Wickliffe Draper, a wealthy recluse with a record of paying for research that tried to "prove" that whites were superior to blacks. The Bowman Gray School of Medicine got the money, but as part of the deal one of the most controversial patrons of racist science got his identity hidden.
"There appears to be some association with Draper. We don't know what the total amount was. We don't know specifically what it was used for," Dr. William B. Applegate, the dean of Wake Forest University School of Medicine, said last week.
Scholars taking hard looks at Draper say that his visit to a Nazi eugenics conference, his bankrolling of the racist tract "White America" and support for sending black Americans back to Africa are part of a pattern - the money promoted the now-discredited eugenics movement and radical racial politics.
"Draper wished to use science as a way to stop the civil-rights movement," said William Tucker, a professor of psychology at Rutgers University and author of The Funding of Scientific Racism: Wickliffe Draper and the Pioneer Fund, published this year.
Applegate said he couldn't condone the school's acceptance of money from Draper, but didn't want to judge his predecessors.
"Clearly the Bowman Gray School of Medicine took a gift from a source in those days that we would not take from that source today, for ethical reasons," said Applegate, who is creating a faculty committee to investigate Draper's ties to the school. "It would be impossible to accept money from a source with those views at this school today. It's absolutely, totally unacceptable."
The official history of the school of medicine is The Miracle on Hawthorne Hill, by Dr. Manson Meads. It refers to an anonymous patron and a gift of $100,000 to be spread over 30 years to pay for the first professorship of medical genetics at the school.
Bowman Gray School of Medicine Amphitheater
It was 1949 when Draper met Dr. C. Nash Herndon of Bowman Gray. Little is known about their meetings, but Herndon was playing a major role in the expansion of the North Carolina eugenic sterilization program at the time.
Research by the Winston-Salem Journal shows that in 1951, Dr. C.C. Carpenter, the dean of the medical school, sent Herndon a memo about grants. The school policy was to assume responsibility if the other source terminated, Carpenter wrote, and "this would be true in your case in regard to payment of your salary through the Draper grant."
Paul Lombardo, the head of the University of Virginia's Center for Biomedical Ethics, said that before Draper gave money to Bowman Gray, a similar offer to another school had raised ethical questions and fallen through.
In 1948 Draper suggested a gift of $100,000 to officials at the Dight Institute at the University of Minnesota to begin a "human genetics project," but director Shelton Reed wrote in a letter that year that Dight probably wouldn't get the money.
"Colonel Draper has very definite ideas as to what the subject of human genetics encompasses," Reed wrote, adding that meant "improvement of the American people by shipping the Negro inhabitants back to Africa. My remark about Colonel Draper is not flattering, but I think you will agree it is generally correct."
Wickliffe Preston Draper
Born in Massachusetts in 1891, Draper had old Kentucky blood on one side of the family, old Puritan on the other, and was sure that kind of family tree represented the true American. He inherited a multimillion-dollar textile fortune in the early 1920s and never worked at a job other than military service in World War I and World War II. A lifelong bachelor described as extremely reclusive by even his admirers, Draper lived in a huge New York apartment filled with stuffed big-game trophies he'd shot on trips to exotic parts of the world.
The $100,000 gift to Wake Forest was one of Draper's largest, Lombardo said, and an examination of what kind of science he was interested in raises questions about what he expected in return for his money.
In 1935 Draper attended the Nazi's International Congress for the Scientific Investigation of Population Problems in Berlin, Lombardo said. The Honorary Chairman of the meeting, Wilhelm Frick, was later convicted during the Nuremberg war-crimes tribunal and hanged in 1946.
Draper's companion at the conference, Dr. Clarence C. Campbell, gave a speech that resounded across the Atlantic. "The difference between the Jew and the Aryan is as unsurmountable (sic) as that between black and white," and closed with a rousing "To that great leader, Adolf Hitler!" Time magazine noted.
The next year Draper chose Campbell as a judge for an essay contest he funded, and in 1937 Draper and eugenicists Harry Laughlin and Frederick Osborn launched the Pioneer Fund as a vehicle for distributing grants. Tucker notes that a proposed Pioneer budget for 1937 mentions "two German films referred to by Colonel Draper have been received," and that one, The Hereditary Defective, was shown at 28 U.S. high schools through Laughlin's efforts. Draper continued to work with Laughlin to find ways to use his money to further science that focused on racial issues. Lombardo said there is conclusive evidence that Draper funded a special printing of Earnest Sevier Cox's racist tract "White America" that was sent to every member of Congress in 1937.
Tucker has shown that Draper gave $215,000 to the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission in the 1960s, a group that used the money for a failed effort to stop the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
In the late 1950s Kinston, N.C., native Harry Weyher became the president of the Pioneer Fund, a position he held until his death this year.
Through Weyher, Draper gave $500 to Wesley Critz George, a staunch advocate of segregation and a professor at the University of North Carolina, to help distribute a 1961 anti-integration pamphlet. Draper sent George $1,000 Christmas checks every year until 1972, Tucker notes.
Pioneer Fund ties to North Carolina expanded in later years, as Marion Parrott of Kinston and Tom Ellis, a Raleigh lawyer, served on Pioneer's board of directors. Ellis' Coalition for Freedom, a part of the Jesse Helms political machine, received $195,000 in Pioneer grants in the 1980s, the equivalent of more than $300,000 today. Ellis did not return calls seeking comment.
Pioneer Fund grants paid for much of the research that supported The Bell Curve, a 1994 best-seller that argued that blacks are genetically inclined to be less intelligent than whites.
J. Philippe Rushton, the current Pioneer president, said there's no doubt some of Draper's past is a public-relations embarrassment, but "that has absolutely nothing to do with the Pioneer Fund."
Because the Pioneer Fund doesn't take stands on political issues, Rushton said it makes no sense to apologize for Draper's past.
"We wouldn't condemn Draper's views on segregation or somebody else's views on integration," he said. Those who attack Draper and Pioneer downplay details that don't fit allegations of racism, Rushton said.
One of the original members of the Pioneer Board of Directors was John Marshall Harlan, who later became a Supreme Court justice and voted for the landmark 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education school-desegregation ruling.
Draper's critics reject those defenses. "(He) made a point of funding people who shared his views on race, and he also made a point of trying to hide what he did," Lombardo said.
Draper was extremely secretive, but even his scant correspondence suggests that he must have believed that Herndon shared his general views on race. Tucker quotes from a 1954 letter to Osborn:
"I should be reluctant to assist investigators whose personalities and view points were markedly alien to my own," Draper wrote, adding that he believed in "measures to promote considerable ethnic homogeneity...."
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker (Raleigh, NC) to commemorate the victims of the state's Eugenics Sterilization Program ( 1933) between 1929 and 1974, over 7,600 individuals were sterilized.
Rushton said he knew nothing about Draper's gift to Bowman Gray, or Herndon's role in the expanded eugenic sterilization program in North Carolina that would become dramatically more racist in the 1950s and 1960s.
"Maybe that's good or bad charity, depending on your values," he said of possible links between Draper's gift and sterilizations in North Carolina.
Applegate is just beginning to look into ties between the school, Draper and sterilizations in North Carolina, but he rejected the entire concept of eugenics.
"To me, the whole concept of involuntary sterilization sends a chill down my spine," Applegate said. "I just think that it's morally wrong. The very concept of that is profoundly upsetting to me and to the leadership and the faculty of the school."