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Six Bridges Presents: Chip Jones, The Organ Thieves

On Thursday, Feb. 17, author Chip Jones will be featured in the latest Six Bridges Presents virtual program, discussing his book, The Organ Thieves: The Shocking Story of the First Heart Transplant in the Segregated South.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks meets Get Out in this “startling…powerful” (Kirkus Reviews) investigation of racial inequality at the core of the heart transplant race.

Chip Jones has been reporting for nearly thirty years for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Roanoke Times, Virginia Business magazine, and other publications. As a reporter for The Roanoke Times, he was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his work on the Pittston coal strike. He is the former communications director of the Richmond Academy of Medicine, which is where he first discovered the heart-stopping story in The Organ Thieves.

In 1968, Bruce Tucker, a black man, went into Virginia’s top research hospital with a head injury, only to have his heart taken out of his body and put into the chest of a white businessman. Now, in The Organ Thieves, Pulitzer Prize–nominated journalist Chip Jones exposes the horrifying inequality surrounding Tucker’s death and how he was used as a human guinea pig without his family’s permission or knowledge.

The circumstances surrounding his death reflect the long legacy of mistreating African Americans that began more than a century before with cadaver harvesting and worse. It culminated in efforts to win the heart transplant race in the late 1960s. Featuring years of research and fresh reporting, along with a foreword from social justice activist Ben Jealous, “this powerful book weaves together a medical mystery, a legal drama, and a sweeping history, its characters confronting unprecedented
issues of life and death under the shadows of centuries of racial injustice” (Edward L. Ayers, author of The Promise of the New South).

The book, which is already out in hardback, will be released in paperback on Tuesday, February 15.

Dr. Laura K. Guidry-Grimes, an assistant professor in the Department of Medical Humanities and Bioethics with a secondary appointment in Psychiatry at the University of Arkansas for Medical
Sciences, serves as moderator. Guidry-Grimes also serves as a clinical ethicist for the UAMS Health system and Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

Some reviews:

“Chip Jones’s The Organ Thieves is the brilliantly researched and written story of how Jim Crow racism infected the medical profession during the Cold War era. The twists and turns in this Virginia saga are astonishingly sad and at times triumphant. Every page is a revelation. A must read!” – Douglas Brinkley, Katherine Tsanoff Brown Chair in Humanities and professor of history at Rice University and author of American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race.

“Journalist Chip Jones tells a gruesome story…The disregard for Black lives The Organ Thieves documents makes it an urgently modern warning.” – The Washington Post

“Startling…A powerful story that examines institutional racism, mortality, medical ethics, and the nature of justice for black men living in the American South…A moving exploration of an unthinkable trespass against an innocent man.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Doggedly reported…A dramatic and fine-grained exposé of the mistreatment of black Americans by the country’s white medical establishment.” – Publishers Weekly

“Chip has a remarkable talent for uncovering and telling stories. The years he has spent on this book shed light on this fascinating and alarming slice of history.” – Derek Jeter, National Baseball Hall of Famer, executive, entrepreneur, and philanthropist

“With elements of legal and social history, this work is recommended for readers interested in the history of race and racism, and how it relates to medical practice in the United States.” – Library Journal

“This powerful book weaves together a medical mystery, a legal drama, and a sweeping history, its characters confronting unprecedented issues of life and death under the shadows of centuries of racial injustice. Jones evokes each person and each scene with remarkable skill and compassion, recreating an America of the 1960s and 1970s that speaks directly to the dilemmas of the twenty-first century.” – Edward L. Ayers, winner of the Bancroft and Lincoln Prizes

The Organ Thieves is a heartbreaker: for a family, for a community, for all the powerless and dispossessed. it exposes the dark well of racism, self-interest, and greed we always fight to hide. But like so many great books, it enters as tragedy and exits as a celebration of honesty, strength, and the power of a few good, dedicated people to change the world. Yes, it will steal your heart. I mean…obviously, right? But it will also get into your head and into your soul.” – Bret Witter, #1 New York Times bestselling co-writer of The Monuments Men and The Master Plan


Date and Time

February 17 @ 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm