L. Douglas Wilder standing at a podium speaking into a microphone
L. Douglas Wilder, Virginia's 66th governor, will be the signature speaker at the 2022 Wilder Symposium, discussing the case in which he represented the family of Bruce Tucker, a Black man, who had his heart transplanted without his family's consent in 1968. (University Marketing file photo)

L. Douglas Wilder, Virginia’s 66th governor, will share lasting impacts of legal case around first heart transplant at 2022 Wilder Symposium on Sept. 19

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The year was 1968. At the Medical College of Virginia (today a part of Virginia Commonwealth University), Bruce Tucker, a Black man, had his heart transplanted — without his family’s consent — into a white businessman. Tucker’s family sought legal justice and the attorney who represented them was L. Douglas Wilder, who went on to become the first elected African American governor in the United States. The case exemplified a journey to fight racism and demand accountability for a gross violation of human rights.

The 2022 Wilder Symposium, “Racism, Health, and Accountability,” will be held in person from 6-7:30 p.m., Monday, Sept. 19, at the VCU Singleton Center for the Performing Arts located at 922 Park Ave. in  Richmond, Virginia. There is a pre-event reception from 5-6 p.m. 

This event is free and open to the public. No RSVP is needed for in-person attendance.

As the signature speaker, Wilder will discuss the complex ethical issues exposed during the case, as well as examine its lasting historic impact today. Wilder will trace the role of institutionalized racism to the ongoing battle for health care equity and access. Wilder will field questions from moderator Susan Gooden, Ph.D., dean of the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at VCU, and from audience members. The symposium will also be streamed live. To view the livestream, please RSVP at bit.ly/22wsrsvp.

Hosted by the Wilder School and University College, this symposium is part of a larger series based on the 2022-2023 VCU Common Book, “The Organ Thieves: The Shocking Story of the First Heart Transplant in the Segregated South,” by Chip Jones. The book follows a long legacy of inhumane treatment of African Americans for unethical medical advancement in the segregated south. The award-winning book will be read by first-year VCU students and will be a focus area for events across campus this fall.

Media can reserve a seat at the event by emailing David Slipher at slipherd@vcu.edu with the subject line “Media reservation for 2022 Wilder Symposium” by Sept. 15, if possible.