C. Benjamin Graham Jr., 1931-2011
Tribute to a Trailblazer

C. Benjamin Graham Jr.
Photo courtesy Pearl Graham
C. Benjamin Graham Jr., ’58, ’62, the first student in a wheelchair to graduate from medical school at the University of Washington—and possibly the first in the nation—died March 19. He was 80.

Graham, who contracted polio while an undergraduate student at Washington State University, put his studies on hold and left WSU to get treatment for polio. Afterward, he finished his bachelor’s degree at the University of Illinois because it had accommodations for wheelchairs.

A top chemistry student, the Missouri native was denied entrance by numerous medical schools because he was in a wheelchair. The UW School of Medicine—then in its infancy in the 1950s—was the only school to admit him. “The UW has a young staff and progressive ideas. I am honored to find myself a part of such an institution,” he wrote to his parents.

He earned his M.D., and did his residency, at the UW School of Medicine.

Graham, who met his wife, Pearl, while both were at the UW, was the first pediatric intern at Children’s Orthopedic Hospital (now Seattle Children’s) in 1958 and the first University Hospital radiology resident in 1959.

He was appointed to the UW medical school faculty in 1963, and was named professor of radiology and pediatrics in 1974. He also was director of radiology at Seattle Children’s. He was named an emeritus professor but continued to work at Children’s after his retirement.

Graham also played wheelchair basketball and helped organize the first wheelchair basketball team in Seattle. He was the 15th player in the nation inducted into the Wheelchair Basketball Hall of Fame.

2 Responses to C. Benjamin Graham Jr., 1931-2011

  1. Dr. Lugard Benka-Coker says:

    Ben, as he would prefer to be called, was my supervisor as a visiting Medical Student fro Nigeria in January 1978 to the Univeristy of Washington Medical School, Seatlle, Washington at the Children Orthopedic Hospital. He was the Professor of Paediatric Radiology. I got my first hand exposure to Radilogy, and in particular Paediatric Radiology, through him. Being a student from a third world country, Nigeria, I got a good exposure from him and was able to interact with other students of my grade in the United States. He exposed me to all the various levels of speciality in Radiology, and I was inspired. Because of his particular attention to me, I decided to specialize in Radiolgy, which I now practice in a private capacity in Nigeria, have gone for further training at post-graduate level in the United Kingdom.
    I met Ben again in Sweden 1991, at world Pediatric Radiolgy conference, when I have now become a Radiologist. He fished me out, and was delighted he was able to influence me. It was a happy reunion with him and his wonderful wife Pearl.
    I am extremely very sad that he has departed the world for the immortal without my being able to wish him a fare well. I wish him eternal bliss. May Ben’s soul rest in perfect peace. Amen!
    My thought goes to the wife Pearl, and children, who am sure miss him very dearly.
    Dr. Lugard Benka-Coker.

  2. Roberta Bender says:

    I worked with Dr. Graham when I was in my early 20s in the film library and on into system support for Dr. Graham and the other rads at Childrens hospital. Dr. Grama was unusual and I absolutely enjoyed chatting with him about things that made his residents’ eyebrows raise! I wish his family well and am glad to have met Dr. Graham.

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