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Friday, April 24, 2015

52 Ancestors Year 2 #18: James Casper Negley, Urologist

     James Casper Negley was my husband's grandfather.  He was one of the first people I found in researching the Negley family because he had a biography in the National Cyclopedia of Biography. He was a prominent Los Angeles surgeon.

     James was born on 8 August 1883 in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania to John Milton Negley and Margaret Hepler.  John was a member of the prominent Negley family of Pittsburgh.  However, he was from a poorer branch and was a farmer in Elizabeth.  I believe that James was named after his cousin, James Scott Negley, a famous Civil War General and later political figure.  I don't see any Jameses in the family until after the Civil War, although there were Jacobs. Likewise no Jameses in the Hepler family(although Jacobs). The Casper was for his great grandfather, Casper Negley. James was the youngest child with  two older sisters, Ida Katharine and Elizabeth (Lizzie) Mae. In 1890, when he was 7 his mother died. This must have been traumatic for the family. In the 1900 Census we find John living in Pittsburgh as a streetcar driver and his children living on the farm in Elizabeth. I assume that he was working to earn money and perhaps home with the kids on the weekends. However, whatever happened I believe that James and his father had a falling out.  I say this based on the fact that James went straight to Los Angeles when he graduated from College and never went back to Pennsylvania, never took his kids there, probably never talked about it. Thus, his son never told his kids about it either and my husband found out from me that there is a big main street in Pittsburgh called Negley Avenue and that his ancestors were the founders of the city. It may not have been his father he had a falling out with but the other Negley relatives in the area.

     Anyway, we find Jim (as he is called in his High School Annual) in 1906 in the New Wilmington High School Annual. It says, "Ever since he cut Prof. Hewie's hair too short "Neg" has lost his "drag' with the faculty. {Best I can interpret this use of drag is standing or PR}. However, he is still as popular as ever with the fellows. Although short in stature, no chicken roost's too high for Jim. He's great on Jui Jitsu, having thrown nearly the whole class of 07 in the Flag rush." Apparently he cut hair to earn his way through High School and College. After graduating High School in 1906 (his father having died in 1908 he put himself through his higher schooling it seems). he went to Westminster College and thence to the University of Michigan where he attained his Medical degree.  He also appears in the 1910 University of Michigan Yearbook, the Michiganensian,  where the following is said of him, "James Casper Negley is said to have a grand chance for becoming famous. The master tonsorial artist, it is said, was driven into the practice of surgery by the invention of the Safety Razor, but with a technique already mastered for wielding the delicate instrument, his success as a medical man who operates is assured."

     His WWI draft card describes him as medium height, medium build, gray eyes and black hair.  His WW II draft card describes him as 5' 6" tall, 150 pounds, brown eyes, brown hair.  I can see that he could have had very dark brown hair but hard to see why gray  and then brown eyes?

     James graduated from University of Michigan with his M.D. in 1910.  He is recorded in Los Angeles with a Dr.'s license in 1911.  He interned at Crocker Street Emergency Hospital 1911-1917 and also was an Asst. District Surgeon for the Southern Pacific Railway in 1914-1917. Around 1913 he advertised for a nurse, Catherine Constance Collins applied and he married her in 1914. He went on to Los Angeles General where he was Jr. Attending Urologist 1920-1925, Senior Attending Urologist 1925-1945 and head of the Dept of Urology from 1940-1945.  He wrote several esteemed articles on urology, held posts in medical and urology societies and was very well known and respected in his field.

     James and Catherine had two children, James Casper Negley, Jr. and Barbara Jean Negley.  Both married and James had two grandsons that he knew and played with, Patrick and Dennis and three others born after he died.  Interestingly, his older sister, Ida Katharine, lived with him from before 1935 and continued to live with his wife for 7 years after his death, dying in 1958.

     James was a success in his profession, in his marriage and with his patients.  This is what one of his fellow doctors says about him in his memorial: "Jim as he was known to his multitude of friends will be sorely missed. His dry wit, his love of fair play, his humorous contempt for stuffed shirts and big shots, his deep affection for family and friends, his love for dogs and the great outdoors, his love of medecine and  the specialty of urology endeared him to all who really knew him.  The grief of the many old patients who came to pay their last respects to Doctor Jim was heartfelt. He had restored their health and given back life--and of many he had asked nothing in return."  E.T Remmen, M.D.


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