During the 1950s, the younger Dr. Sherwin became the first white physician to lead a medical society made up of African-American doctors from across the country.
That came about because of his father, Dr. Charles F. Sherwin. He taught black medical students at the old City Hospital No. 2 for Negroes, near today’s Harris-Stowe State University.
The elder Sherwin also taught at the John A. Andrew Clinical Society, which met at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute. The group’s black physicians were barred from membership in the all-white medical societies in their hometowns across the country.
Although he was a white physician from St. Louis, the elder Sherwin joined the medical society in Alabama.
In recognition of his work, the physicians elected him their first white president. But before he could take office in 1953, he was stricken with a fatal illness.
His son stepped in as acting president. The medical society for blacks continued until the mid-1960s, when most local medical societies opened their membership to minorities.
Dr. Charles Steelman Sherwin died Sept. 1, 2012, at St. Louis University Hospital. He was a longtime resident of the Shaw neighborhood.
He had been in declining health since the death of his wife on March 8 and had recently suffered from aspiration pneumonia, his family said this week.
Dr. Sherwin was a surgeon here for nearly 40 years and taught at St. Louis University.
He graduated from Webster Groves High School in 1937 and earned his undergraduate and medical degrees at St. Louis University.
In 1943, he married Ruth Adele Steward, a teacher in the St. Louis schools. They had met as teens at church.
In 1944, his Naval Reserve unit was activated for duty during World War II; he served as medical officer aboard an aging tanker near the Philippine Islands.
Dr. Sherwin returned after the war to practice medicine with his father and teach.
At one meeting of the Andrew Clinical Society in Alabama, he met the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and recalled the civil rights leader’s message to the physicians: “Whatever you do, do your best at it.” read more…