George Justice Race, M.D., Ph.D., passed away at home on Dec. 17, 2013, with family and friends by his side. He was a true pioneer, a rugged Texas individualist, who strived for excellence in all of his endeavors.
George Race was born in Everman, Texas, on March 2, 1926, to Lila Eunice Bunch Race and Claude Earnest Race. He attended Texas Wesleyan College for one year and Baylor University for a second college year, after which he entered medical school at Southwestern. He graduated in June 1947 at age 21. He liked to tell the story of how meeting the love of his life, Annette Rinker Race (one of only two female medical students in the Southwestern Class of 1948), was disruptive to his previously near-perfect GPA. His solution was to marry her as soon as possible, and they became husband and wife in 1946, a union that lasted 61 happy years.
The newlyweds soon moved to Durham, N.C., where George interned in pathology at Duke University, followed by an internship in general surgery at the Boston City Hospital. He loved surgery, but enjoyed relating how he came to the decision to pursue pathology instead of surgery — he calculated the number of remaining minutes of his life that he would need to devote to scrubbing his hands. For him, it was a decisive moment. After serving in the Army in World War II, he entered the U.S. Air Force at Alamogordo, N.M., in 1949 and served in Korea as a flight surgeon for the next three years. In fact, his love of flying continued throughout his life, and he maintained an active pilot’s license well into his eighties.
After his military service, George returned to Duke University, completing his pathology residency in 1953. He then moved to Boston and joined the faculty of Harvard Medical School and attended at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital. He spoke fondly and often of the early days of the Pathology Department at Harvard, where he developed a life-long love of pathogenesis studies and parasitology. He left Boston to become chief of pathology at St. Anthony’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla. However, with three small sons (Bill, born in 1950, Clark in 1952, and Mark in 1953), the call to Texas and family was strong, and he returned to Southwestern Medical School in 1955 with an appointment in the Pathology Department. In 1959, he became chief of pathology at Baylor University Medical Center, a position which he proudly held just shy of 30 years. He was remarkably productive at the growing Baylor University Medical Center, especially in getting laboratories built and raising the standards of excellence for clinical pathology.
He has published extensively. His book Laboratory Medicine (written at Baylor) is a four-volume publication that was updated regularly through 13 revisions. He has published 165 articles in peer-reviewed journals and nearly as many abstracts. He was instrumental in starting the A. Webb Roberts Center for Continuing Education, and was its first dean. He was also chairman of the Baylor Research Foundation from 1986 to 1989, and during that period founded the journal BUMC Proceedings. He received the Distinguished Achievement Award from Baylor University. George devoted the next productive period of his life and career developing the Continuing Education Department at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, an institution for which he had a lifetime loyalty — having first entered at the age 19. He retired as an emeritus professor of pathology in 1994.
Along the way, the ever-industrious George Race studied anthropology at Southern Methodist University and even attended a year of law school at SMU. In 1969, he earned his Ph.D. in anatomy and microbiology at Baylor University in Waco. His children will never forget his anatomy studies — he traveled to South America to join whaling expeditions to obtain the largest adrenal glands known. He was truly a larger-than-life scientist and explorer as well as a physician.
George’s extracurricular activities were as diverse as his scientific curiosity. He traveled with Anne and the children around the world, culminating in a trip to Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania to demonstrate to them the exact location upon which L.S.B. Leakey made his pivotal discoveries in the field of human evolution. He had a lifelong passion for biodiversity and animal husbandry, starting as an avid hunter and cattle rancher, and ultimately progressing into a collector and protector of exotic animal species, which he maintained on his 3,000-acre ranch in Lampasas County. This property, Race Ranch, was his pride and joy, and George made sure that all of his children grew up riding horses and enjoying off-road adventures in the Texas Hill Country.
Another lifelong passion he maintained was for exploration. George served tirelessly on the board of the Explorer’s Club in New York, an organization which he both admired and influenced over the years. In fact, he was instrumental in introducing a new concept of exploration to the brilliant group of geographers, oceanographers, astronauts, and mountain-climbers who comprise the Explorer’s Club. He believed firmly that scientific exploration — into molecular biology, biochemistry, and the fundamental mechanisms of disease pathogenesis — constituted a unique brand of heroic exploration that deserved recognition, since the drive to discover and learn is shared by both types of explorers. This kind of insight characterized his unique brand of innovation within various organizations, and he loved being a part of growing institutions. Ultimately, George introduced the New York Explorer’s Club to Texas, by founding and nurturing the local chapter for many years — an achievement he was deeply proud of. Similarly, he was a founding member of the Little Brothers Baylor Journal Club, a physicians’ club that he made famous by saying the most important thing in its charter was that it “had no rules.”
Perhaps George Race’s greatest accomplishments involved his dynamic mentoring skills — first as an inspiration and example to his children (and their friends), but also to the innumerable medical students, dental students, residents, fellows, and graduate students in pathology over his 50-year career. Throughout his life, George identified brilliant but under-recognized physicians and scientists all over the world, and he would personally take responsibility for furthering their careers by bringing them to Texas for fellowships and degree programs in pathology at Baylor University Medical Center. He had an unerring eye for hidden genius, and valued these “diamonds in the rough” above all else. Many of his former mentees have gone on to careers of excellence, and even chairmanships, in pathology departments throughout the U.S. and in other countries. Above all, his contributions in the area of human capital make him a true standout among men.
George Race was a devoted husband to Anne for 61 years and a loving and incredibly supportive father to his children — Bill, Clark, Mark, Jennifer (deceased), and Elizabeth. He has created institutions — both scientific and outside of his profession — built dozens of homes, and created charitable foundations, all while being the most steadfast supporter of those friends, family members, and colleagues in need of personal or professional advice. He represents the finest example of what a physician, a scientist, a thought leader, an innovator, and a compassionate human being could be. He absolutely represents the Greatest Generation, and he will be terribly missed by all of his loved ones, colleagues, and mentees — and by all those young students whose lives he touched. He is survived by his sons and daughters-in-law, Bill and Randy Race, Clark and Anne Race, and Mark and Deborah Race; his daughter Elizabeth Race; his niece, Betsy Sholtis, and nephews, Richard Kirchhof, Randall Kirchhof, William Sampson and David Sampson; along with many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The family would like to thank and give credit to Dr. William Roberts of the Continuing Education Department at Baylor University Medical Center, for his thoughtful biography published in the BUMC Proceedings in 2001.
Visitation was held at Sparkman Hillcrest on Northwest Highway in Dallas. A memorial service was held on Dec. 21, 2013, at Highland Park Presbyterian Church. Charities supported by Dr. George Race include the American Cancer Society, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and the Baylor Research Foundation.