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Category:  Did You Know?
Published:  March, 2010

Did You Know?
Did you know that Fayette County has been on the forefront of some of the earliest medical/scientific testing procedures in the country?

I mentioned last year that a Fayette County judge had granted a man a new trial after a jury had disregarded the findings of blood tests that supported his claim that he hadn’t father a child out of wedlock in 1931.

It was one of the first cases in which blood tests were used to determine paternity in the United States.

Well, a few years later, a longtime Uniontown pathologist, Dr. H.A. Heise, began tying the excessive use of alcohol to erratic driving.

In fact, his initial research gained national attention because he’d published his findings in one of the nation’s leading medical publications.

According to the May 14th, 1935 edition of the New York Times, “Dr. Herman A. Heise, of Columbia Hospital, Milwaukee (He’d moved to Milwaukee after he’d been a pathologist at Uniontown Hospital for 15 years), in an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, analyzes 119 automobile accidents involving injury or death to 216 persons at Uniontown, Pa.”

His research involved drivers who had been drinking.

Such determinations weren’t as obvious before Dr. Heise’s findings.

On June 15th, 1934, the Uniontown Daily News Standard carried an editorial comment about Dr. Heise’s speech at a medical conference in Cleveland.

He’d told the group that it was the intoxication of male drivers, more than any factor that made them less safe behind the wheels of cars, than female drivers. He even mentioned that intoxicated pedestrians were the blame for many fatalities.

The following day, the Daily News Standard carried a sidebar item on the front page which said, “The more a motorist drinks, says Dr. Heise in Milwaukee, the worse accident he gets into. And, also, the less he feels it.”

It’s easy in 2010 to equate high numbers of automobile accidents with inebriation. For us, that’s a foregone conclusion.

But in the early 1930’s, there simply wasn’t a lot of evidence that would support the thesis that increased numbers of automobile accidents were the direct results of people sitting, for too long, on barstools.

That’s where Dr. Heise’s research became important.

The mass production of automobiles was in full swing in the early part of the 20th Century, and at the same time (as a highly respected pathologist) Dr. Heise testified at many trials involving serious automobile accidents, especially after Prohibition ended in 1933.

He’d firsthand seen the radical effects alcohol on had safe driving.

In the October 17th, 1935 edition of the Uniontown Morning Herald, Dr. Heise’s demonstration before the American Safety Congress in Louisville made front page news.

He’d simply plied seven people with alcohol and monitored their responses to it.

The results show how, after only a single drink, people became impaired simply “sorting a deck of cards, threading a needle, using a typewriter and pushing in a brake pedal when a red light showed.”

The first sentence in the article, encapsulated the findings: “Alcohol, fatigue and sluggishness as the instruments of death on the highways.”

Later, Dr. Heise was credited as being the originator of urinalysis to determine intoxication.

According to the May 30th, 1949 edition of the Milwaukee Journal, “Dr. Heise studied the reactions of 4,000 people in varying stages of intoxication before making the findings which are the bases for urinalysis. The American Medical Association in 1939 approved the use of urinalysis.”
And to think, it all started in Fayette County, Pennsylvania.

Did you know there was a chance, but for a brief time, there might have been a President George C. Marshall?

The November 7th, 1943 edition of the New York Times carried the story of how Sen. Edwin C. Johnson of Colorado called on the Democrats to draft the Uniontown native for president.

According to Johnson, Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal was a dead corpse, and he called Marshall “The Man of This Tragic Hour.”

There was a flurry of newspaper articles at that time, which looked at the possibility that Marshall could, in fact, run for the presidency.

One Washington political columnist noted that, like F.D.R., Marshall was a Democrat. In fact, he wrote that “Marshall couldn’t get into West Point because his father, the only Democrat in Uniontown, Pa. could not get an appointment from the McKinley administration.”

All of the speculation about Marshall’s potential run for the White House was apparently intensified when a few weeks later (on December 1st) a Newsweek poll was released.

Seventy newspaper writers, radio commentators and historians had cast their votes for “who made the greatest contribution leadership of the nation during the first two years of the war.”

Marshall topped the list. He beat our President Roosevelt by one vote.

However, Gen. Marshall, as the Army Chief of Staff, didn’t show any inclination to enter the world of politics.

The New York Times ran an extensive story about him on January 21st, 1947 (the day Marshall was sworn in as U.S. Secretary of State) in which he finally answered those calls for him to run for president. He claimed he “never could be drafted for political office.”