Book excerpt: 'The Organ Thieves'

The Organ Thieves
The Shocking Story of the First Heart Transplant in America's Segregated South
Book Excerpt 

CHAPTER ONE: Case of the Missing Heart

In late May 1968, Doug Wilder was in his law office on a tree-lined street in Richmond, Virginia. He was winding down from a long day of work when the phone rang.

“They took my brother’s heart!” the man on the other end of the line exclaimed in horror.

As one of the best-known African American trial lawyers practicing in the state capital, Wilder was accustomed to taking random phone calls day or night. Accusations of rape, robbery, and murder were not uncommon, nor were other desperate pleas from mothers and fathers seeking help for loved ones who’d run afoul of the legal system. Even as halting steps toward progress had begun to bring incremental improvements in schools, housing, and jobs, his home state of Virginia was still moving at a snail’s pace from under the heavy burden of centuries of discrimination.

But . . .