(The following is the final portion of Camden Archives and Museum Director Katherine Richardson’s keynote speech at the Baruch Society Annual Meeting, Nov. 15, 2012.)
Through the front door of the hospital visitors encountered a reception room and superintendent’s office on the right and a doctors’ clinic and a proposed dispensary on the left. The wards at the rear were reserved for the charity patients, one wing for African-Americans and one wing for whites, with 13 beds in each. The second floor rooms contained 22 beds reserved for paying patients, 30 when there were emergencies. In the basement were the steam furnace, laundry and kitchen. The Ladies Auxiliary furnished the linens for the hospital, with special mention made of the “good colored women” of the county who “had a big hand in furnishing many of the articles of the linen … they worked in a quiet way in furnishing many things which will be useful for many years to come.”
At the end of the fund-raising campaign to obtain a hospital for Camden, it was solely Bernard who was credited with the deal-making donation. Other than Herman introducing the idea that a Baruch hospital was a possibility to South Carolina, we do now know the exact involvement of the rest of the family in this philanthropic mission. In his presentation before the opening audience, Dr. Simon Baruch praised his son. “The laudatory words … spoken of my dear boy whose privilege it has been to build this token of love to his native town would have impelled his shrinking nature to contemplate escape if he had been present tonight, so fearful is he of hearing his good deeds publicly commended. I have often rebuked him tenderly for this painful modesty, for I hold that the beneficence of a good deed is diminished by its being held secret.” Simon went on to say, “When your energetic Board of Trade wrote to my son of the projected hospital, he asked my advice, and I unhesitatingly urged him to build it. I made only one personal request, namely that this hospital should be unique in one respect, in that a part of it shall be devoted to out-door treatment – a dispensary, not the kind that has become odious in these parts, but a place where the toilers of the town and vicinity may come freely and without restraint to seek relief for their so-called minor ailments, which are often more serious than the more dreaded diseases.” Simon did not want the word charity to overshadow the true purpose of the hospital. He stated that it should “dispense its benefactions as tokens of brotherly love, and not as an act of charity to those whom fate has not favored.”
Bernard’s care and support for the Camden Hospital did not end with this opening event. It lasted through his lifetime. A series of correspondence between Dr. John Corbett and Bernard Baruch surfaced when Joseph Bruce brought me a stack of old papers from KershawHealth’s offices a few weeks ago. Near the top was a letter signed by Bernard and we got all excited – a letter from Bernard himself! Oh, my, as I dug through the papers and sorted them into categories, other letters emerged from the stack! As the rebuilding of the hospital proceeded after the fire of 1921, Baruch and Corbett conversed through the mail. Baruch’s concern and practicality played out in each conversation. In January 1922, he all but scolded Dr. Corbett, who was overseeing the construction and decisions involved in the rebuilding.
“My Dear Dr. Corbett:
“Indeed you do not bore me in speaking of the Camden Hospital. I am always glad to hear about it.
“Perhaps I do not understand this matter; but you seem to go ahead and do things without having the money in hand. Am I wrong? Of course we must adjust ourselves to conditions. We could spend thousands and thousands of dollars on a hospital. However, we can’t do that; nor will the town support, or the community demand, too big a hospital.
“Very Sincerely yours,
In May of 1922, Bernard wrote, “Although I could have given all the money, I thought it was better to have others interest themselves in the building and maintenance of the hospital because that increases the general interest in it. We really do not appreciate things unless we have to work hard for them …”
During the controversial years when building a third hospital at a new site was debated in the community, Bernard was still following the progress of the institution he largely made possible. He mentioned Camden’s proximity to Columbia’s large hospitals and cautioned in a 1954 letter to Mayor Henry Savage, “It will be impossible to have a hospital that will cover all the specialties. It might be well to study very carefully what position the town will find itself in and whether it will be able to support such a venture.”
Bernard Baruch made a fortune on Wall Street but knew all too well that money was not the most important thing in life. He owed that knowledge to his father and mother. He wrote of the time that he told his father he was worth a million dollars, “His kindly face assumed a quizzical expression, as if he experienced some difficulty in grasping the fact of a million dollars … Perhaps I should not have expected any other reaction. Father had always regarded making money as of secondary importance compared to moral values and one’s usefulness to the community … Of what use to a man are a million dollars unless he does something worthwhile with them?” Worthwhile was the honor he felt for his father and all that his father and mother had taught him and his brothers about community and love of mankind. His gift to the community of Camden was his worthwhile way to honor both his father and his father’s life’s work. It was the way to honor his mother and her wishes for him to remain connected and caring for their beloved South land. It was his worthwhile means to care for the community of his cradle and youth.
So, as KershawHealth faces the next century of caring I will let Bernard challenge you in his own words as he did the country in 1953 at the age of 83:
“I have known, and who has not, personal disappointments and despair. But always the thought of tomorrow has buoyed me up. I have looked to the future all of my life. I still do. I still believe that with courage and intelligence we can make the future bright with fulfillment.” He would want KershawHealth to face its second century with eyes on the bright future, and with its feet grounded in its long years of service to the people of Kershaw County and Camden. Thank you, Mr. Baruch!