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Narrative complete 91%

Urbane Francis Bass, M.D.

Born: 14 April 1880
Hometown: Richmond, Virginia
Death: 6 October 1918
Branch: Medical Reserve Corps U.S. Army
Race: African-American
Unit at time of action: 2nd Battalion, 372nd Infantry Regiment. 186th Infantry Brigade, 93rd Division
Locations of service: Fort Des Moines (Iowa); Camp Funston (Kansas); Newport News (Virginia); Bellenvue Signal Ridge (France); Monthois (France)
Attached to: French 157th Division, French Fourth Army, French XXI Corps
Military Honor(s): Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously awarded 7 November 1918)

“Realizing that patriotism and loyalty should be paramount in the breasts of all American citizens at this time, and feeling (although a negro) that loyalty for my country and the desire to serve her in this critical period, I am herewith offering my services for the army Medical Corps, should there be a need for a negro physician for that branch of service.” 1

Writing to Secretary of War Newton D. Baker on 5 April 1917, the day prior to Congress officially declaring war and three days following President Woodrow Wilson’s war address to that same Congress, Dr. Urbane Francis Bass offered his medical expertise to the nation. J.B. Morris, a friend commented “Dr. Bass was dedicated to serving his country in a time of critical need. He knew our men were going to die in France and told me he would give his life to save them, if he had to. I could see the sincerity in his eyes. He was committed to the end.” 2

Born to Richard and Rosa Bass on 14 April 1880, Bass grew up in a segregated south still recovering from the ravages of civil war. He was one of six children within the household on East Duval Street. His father’s occupations included selling shoes, clothes and insurance. Bass graduated from Virginia Union University in 1902 and the Leonard Medical School of Shaw University in 1906. 3 He remained in Richmond starting a small medical practice on William Street, but within three years had closed the practice and moved to Fredericksburg to open a larger practice on Amelia Street and two years later a pharmacy on Commerce Street. His new practice was well received by the African-American community, although local hospital privileges were denied. He “often treated…patients in their own homes, doing surgery on kitchen tables if necessary,” 4

Civic duty and community engagement seemed to be a foundation for Bass as he was a founding member of Richmond’s Astoria Beneficial Club in 1901, serving as vice president, while still an undergraduate student. The objective of the Club was to “inspire the members to a higher religious, moral, intellectual, civic and social standing and to relieve the distressed members.” 5

1 Free Lance Star, April 6, 1917, U.F. Bass Background Collection, 2001-051-001, Central Rappahannock Heritage Center, Fredericksburg, Virginia. 2 Joann Buckley, “Fredericksburg war hero, Dr. Urbane Bass, Remembered 100 Years Later,” www.fredericksburg.com, accessed October 28, 2018, https/www.fredericksburg.com/opinion/columns/column-fredericksburg-war-hero-drurbane-bass-remembered-years-later/article_ed717a7b-df8a-5bad-a72c-7b420bae2a49.html. James B. Morris enlisted in the U.S. Army’s 17th Provisional Training Regiment at Fort Des Moines, graduating as a second lieutenant in the first black officer class. Morris was in the Army Intelligence Service, 3rd Battalion, 92nd Division, 366th Infantry. Following the war, he returned to Des Moines, Iowa, practiced law and then purchased the Iowa Bystander newspaper which he operated for 50 years. 3 “Men of the Month,” The Crisis, February 1919, 177. His studies included Bible, English Language and Literature, Physics, Geometry, Latin, University History, Rhetoricals, Physiology and Hygiene, Civil Government, Ethics, Zoology, and Psychology. Bass delivered an address titled “The Companionship of Books” at his graduation ceremony from Virginia Union University. “Virginia Union University Closes,” The Richmond Planet (Richmond, VA), June 7, 1902 and “Colored Men Make Good Addresses,” The Times (Richmond, VA), May 22, 1902. 4 W. Douglas Fisher and Joann H. Buckley, African American Doctors of World War I: The Lives of 104 Volunteers (Jefferson, NC.: McFarland & Company, 2016), 29. 5 “Astoria Beneficial Club,” Founding Fathers, accessed October 28, 2018, https//www.astoriabeneficialclub.org/founding-fathers.html. Additional information related to his association is included in The Richmond Planet (Richmond, VA), January 11, 1902.