Sunday, 23 April 2017

    
NOTED BIOLOGIST

submitted by
Bro. William Higginbotham III, M.D.


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The Honorable Dr. Ernest Everett Just came from humble beginnings. he was born in the black section of Charleston South Carolina in 1883. His grandfather Charles Just Sr. was initially a man of prosperity if not wealth. He is said to have been the slave (and possibly the son ) of George Just. George Just was a German Immigrant who had made a name for himself in the wharf building business. Though Charles Sr. was a slave he enjoyed movement around Charleston as a free man. He married a free black woman and had children. The children were Charles Jr., James and Simeon.

Charles Jr. married Mary Matthews Cooper local women from a good family. From this marriage came Norman Rutledge, Vivian, Hunter, Inez and the Hon. Dr. Ernest Everett Just. Dr. JustĂs early childhood was not idyllic. There was little if any medical care available to blacks. his brother Norman died at age two during Dr. JustĂs first year of life. His sister Vivian died one year later. Even Just himself, fell ill with a fever in 1887 and barely survived his bout with typhoid fever.

Dr. JustĂs father was not his inspiration for great achievement. He was a ˘neĂer-do-well÷ whose major activity was drinking an infidelity. He in fact died of alcoholism before Dr. JustĂs bout with typhoid fever. Despite the loss of all their worldly possessions at the death of his father and grandfather, Mary Matthews kept the family together.

She began a new life for them on James Island. This area outside of Charleston was home too many Blacks who were of African decent. She amassed money by performing heavy labor in a phosphate mine, and by investing in real estate. She was able to build up a small settlement that became known as Marysville. This town was so named because of her degree of civic involvement. It was from this environment that Dr. Just began to grow and develop. He had to teach himself to learn to read and write again after his bout with typhoid fever. By reading the bible he brought himself back to the high level of performance that he had demonstrated before the fever.

His early schooling was at the Industrial School of the State College of Orangeburg. Industrial schools were schools set up to train blacks to teach or to enter trades. Dr. Just excelled finishing the course in three years. This qualified him to teach. He did not want a career in teaching. His mother was a deeply religious person. She received a periodical called the ˘Christian Endeavor World÷ . In this periodical she became aware of a school known as the Kimball Union Academy. This school in Meriden New Hampshire had been founded by a council of New England Churches for the purpose of preparing young men for the ministry. At Kimball he excelled. It was a pleasant environment compared to South Carolina.

He was one of only two blacks in the school. there were few Blacks around so they were not viewed as a threat. For the first time he was accepted for his intellect and knowledge, although there was much curiosity around such an intellectually gifted black man. He completed the normal four-year course in three years. He then decided to go on to Dartmouth College. he picked Dartmouth because it was close to his beloved Kimball Union Academy.

He found Dartmouth more of a challenge. The environment was more hostile to him. blacks were not common on campus. He was the only black man in his class of 287. There was more emphasis on sports at Dartmouth at that time, than on intellect. His first two years were difficult. He did however excel in classical studies and Greek. He met Dr. William Patten a leading biologist who was impressed and bemused by his intellect. this began Dr. JustsĂ career as a biological researcher. his first publication appears in Dr. PattenĂs book The evolution of the invertebrates and their Kin. Dr. JustĂs last two years were distinguished by winning the Rufus Choate award. This was given to the undergraduate with the highest grade point average. He won this award his junior and senior year. After his graduation he was recruited to Howard University by, then President Wilbur P. Thirkield. It is here that he began his distinguished association with Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. He was faculty advisor and a mediator between the white administration at Howard who were afraid of a black organization of men.

Dr. Just went on to a distinguished career while at Howard. The crowning point being the publication of his book The Biology of Cell Surface in 1939. He was the winner of the Spingarn Medal in 1915 the first recipient of the award , given to a black man or women of outstanding achievement.

Founder Dr. Ernest Everett Just entered Omega Chapter October 27, 1941, when his health failed.

 




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