His schoolmates had an affectionate nickname for the fast-walking boy who was so energetic, purposeful and bright. They called him “Swifty.” The determined young man seemed driven by the urge to accomplish great things. And although the nickname faded away, Richard Mudd did achieve great things in a long and eventful life.
He was born in Washington, D.C., on January 24, 1901, one of four children of Dr. Thomas and Mary Elizabeth Mudd. After finishing second in his class at Gonzaga High School, he entered Georgetown College (now University) where he earned four degrees including a Ph.D and an M.D.
In 1926, Richard Mudd began his internship at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. In 1928, he became a pioneer in industrial medicine when he was chosen as a General Motors physician, serving at the Ternstedt and Fisher Body plants. He transferred to Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1933, where he initiated and supervised the building of five industrial dispensaries. In 1936, he came to Saginaw where he was GM’s medical director for 30 years. During that time, he wrote dozens of papers and lectured frequently on industrial safety and health issues.
While at college, Richard had joined the ROTC and was commissioned a first lieutenant in the Army Medical Corps in 1926. In the early 1930s, he became one of the first flight surgeons in the Army Air Corps. He served in both World War II and the Korean War, had the rank of colonel and won the Legion of Merit, the highest non-combat decoration. During 40 years in the military, he flew in almost 60 kinds of aircraft, from balloons to supersonic planes.
He was also a noted genealogist and wrote the 1800-page volume, The Mudd Family of the United States. For over 80 years, he fought to clear the name of his grandfather, Dr. Samuel Mudd, the doctor who unknowingly set the broken leg of Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth. He travelled throughout the country—and beyond—giving talks on the assassination, wrote hundreds of letters to presidents, congressmen and others, seeking help in the crusade. He also gave interviews and was a frequent guest on radio and TV programs.
In 1994, Hoyt Library dedicated the Dr. Richard D. Mudd Lincoln Collection, over 750 books he had donated. He donated his huge file on the assassination to Georgetown University. A major motion picture, “The Prisoner of Shark Island” starred Warner Baxter as Dr. Samuel Mudd and was chosen as one of the ten best movies of 1936. Both Presidents Reagan and Carter wrote that they were personally convinced of his grandfather’s innocence.
To name just a few of Dr. Richard Mudd’s most significant honors, he was named Doctor of the Year by the Michigan Medical Society in 1995; he was a charter member and president of the Saginaw Historical Society; the co-founder and charter member of the Saginaw County Hall of Fame; co-founder and contributor to the Saginaw County Medical Society Bulletin; founder of the Saginaw Genealogical Society; and co-founder and president of the Saginaw Public Health Association.
He served as an FAA physician for over 30 years and directed the first symposium on industrial health ever sponsored by a county medical society. Saginaw Valley State University conferred on him an honorary degree of doctor of humanities in 1985.
Dr. Mudd was an early and enthusiastic advocate of physical fitness and played handball three times a week until he was well over 90. A YMCA handball tournament, the Dr. Richard D. Mudd Open, honored his devotion to the game.
He was married for 70 years and one day to Rose Marie Krummack, a vivacious nurse he met while at Ford Hospital. He said he was first attracted by her smile, her brilliant blue eyes—and her chicken salad sandwiches. They were the proud parents of seven children and over 100 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
After Richard Mudd died on May 21, 2002, the St. Mary Cathedral was packed. Mourners included reenactors portraying Abraham Lincoln and General and Mrs. Grant.
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