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There is a monument to Dr. Joseph De Horatiis on East Grand Boulevard and Gratiot in Detroit. Who was Dr. De Horatiis and why is there a monument to him?
Giuseppe (Joseph) De Horatiis was born in Agnone, Campobasso, Italy on August 20, 1879. His father's name was Pietro De Horatiis. In 1905, Joseph was working at the University of Naples as a faculty member of Medicine and Surgery (Regia Universita di Napoli Facolta di Medicina e Chirurgia). He immigrated to the United States in 1906 and settled in Detroit. He graduated from the Detroit College of Medicine in 1909 and began a medical practice in Detroit.
June 20, 1943, a fight broke out at the Belle Isle bridge. The Detroit Historical Society reports that more than two hundred black and white individuals engaged in fighting on Belle Isle. Though police suppressed the violence by midnight, tensions soared and later that night, two rumors led to aggressive action on both sides. African Americans at the Forest Social Club in Paradise Valley (Paradise Valley was the business district and entertainment center of a densely-populated African-American residential area in Detroit) were told that whites had thrown a black woman and her baby off the Belle Isle Bridge. They formed a furious mob and moved near Woodward, breaking windows, looting white businesses and attacking white individuals. In a nearby area, angry whites had gathered after hearing that black men had raped a white woman near the same bridge. Around 4am, a mob of white men formed outside the Roxy Theatre on Woodward. When the movie let out, black men exiting the theatre were surrounded and beaten. As word of both incidents spread, so did the violence. Gangs of people roamed the streets. White mobs overturned cars owned by blacks and set them on fire and beat black men. Black looters critically wounded a police sergeant in a gun fight. Dr. Joseph De Horatiis entered the melee when he was answering a call in the riot area on June 21, 1943.
From The Detroit Free Press, Saturday, June 26, 1943
He served his fellowmen; Grave Pays Doctor for Christian Life By Lyford Moore, Free Press Staff Writer
Fire and passion born of bitter grieving for a friend were in Father Hector Saulino's voice Friday morning in Blessed Sacrament Cathedral as he preached the funeral sermon for Dr. Joseph De Horatiis, one of the innocent victims of Detroit's race rioting last Monday. Father Saulino's tone said what he did not put into words, that America had been served far better by Dr. De Horatiis than his adopted country had served him.
BORN IN ITALY He was born at Agnone in the Campobasso Province of Italy 64 years ago and came to America in the early 1900's. He came here as Italians did in those days because this was the land where all men were equal, the land of freedom and tolerance where even a humble man could make his way to the top. Sitting in the Cathedral as Father Saulino said of his murdered friend that "everything he did was motivated by his love for man."
THE GOOD DOCTOR
He said the "good doctor" had never in his life sent a statement to a patient nor been the first to bring up the question of money. "Many times," he said, "the doctor refused to take any money and often he paid the bills of specialists he called into cases. Many times, he loaned great sums of money without taking notes. After 37 years of service he died poor, owed much of that money still." But the doctor did far more than that, according to the priest. He never refused a patient and handled thousands of charity cases in his lifetime. "If the patient was white or black it would have made no difference. "The doctor gave his life in the line of duty," Father Saulino said. On his way to see a sick man Monday morning, he was halted in the trouble zone near Warren and Hastings. "Better not go into that section, doctor," a policeman warned him According to the priest, Dr. De Horatiis replied: "I have to see a patient, and I am going to him.' Later he was found badly beaten and unconscious at Erskine and Beaubien. He died soon afterward.
The Rest of the Story
Aaron Fox, an 18-year-old black man was charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of Dr. Joseph De Horatiis. Fox was accused of throwing a rock through the window of the physician's automobile which struck him on the head, causing him to lose control of the car and crash into a tree. Aaron Fox was tried, convicted and sentenced in 1944 for the riot murder and sent to Jackson Prison to serve a 7 to 15-year sentence. Fox was convicted on the testimony of several young men who subsequently went to jail themselves. They repented while in jail and agreed to testify that they had framed the young man. Fox was released from jail.
In 1945, the monument was erected to Dr. Joseph De Horatiis. The inscription reads: "Dr. Joseph De Horatiis, born 1879, died 1949, with Christian charity he devoted his life to assuage the sufferings of his fellowmen. His life moved ever upward by dint of sacrifice. Erected by the Italian-Americans of Detroit, 1945."
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