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Biography of Douglas Craig
Most people don’t know the true story of the little boy who came to be known as Douglas Craig. He was found wandering around the streets of Washington, D.C. He could not hear or speak. He did not know his name or how old he was. He had no home. At night, he huddled in doorways and slept. Sometimes people pitied him and gave him food and clothing. If not, he ate what he could find in garbage cans.
It is said that a man named Craig found the little boy and took him to Dr. E. M. Gallaudet at Gallaudet College. Dr. Gallaudet gave him the first name of Douglas, and the last name of Craig, after the man who found him. The little boy became Douglas Craig.
Dr. Gallaudet placed Douglas in the Kendall School, and he stayed there until he was old enough to work. He spent his life working in and around the halls of Gallaudet. Consequently, all of the students who lived on Kendall Green during the days of Douglas Craig knew him. They have told enough stories about him to fill a book.
Douglas grew to become a tall, strong man. He was probably the best “handy man” that Gallaudet had ever had. He had many duties, such as picking up mail at the post office, mowing grass, raking leaves, tending the flower beds, raising and lowering the heavy drop curtain on the stage for plays in the chapel, and carrying notes from the boys to the girls. Clearly, he was a familiar sight on campus.
For years, Douglas lived in a room over the stable which once stood near the Ely Center. He liked to collect junk, and the stable loft was full of old tin bath tubs, bed springs, clothes, and stove pipe hats that other people had given to him. He once raised rabbits, guinea pigs, and white rats in the stable yard.
Douglas actively sought a wife during his life at Gallaudet. It is said that he asked all of the black cooks in the college kitchen to marry him. For a time, he courted a black woman from Baltimore. Since his courtship required letter-writing, and he was illiterate, he had a student in the college act as his “private secretary.” Though that relationship did not work out, he did finally marry. Later in life, he married a black deaf woman from Washington. The wedding and reception took place in a church near the college, and most of the college faculty and teachers of the Kendall School were present. Douglas was dressed for the occasion in a full-dress suit with a white tie and white gloves.
The happy couple went to Baltimore for a honeymoon, but the honeymoon only lasted for one day. Their plans were cut short when Douglas’ pocketbook containing about $300 was either lost or stolen.
Douglas never got very far from Washington, D.C. Gallaudet College was his world. He went to Norfolk, Virginia, once on a vacation, but he did not know what a vacation was. He spent the entire time working around the docks of Norfolk. He came home with a pocketful of money, and told everyone that he had a fine vacation.
Douglas’ last public duty was to raise the flag to the top of the new flagpole in front of College Hall. He was very feeble at the time, and sat in a big armchair during the ceremonies. He died on February 11, 1936, but left a legend at Gallaudet that would live forever.
Adapted from: Goodstein, A. & Walworth, M. (1979). “Interesting Deaf Americans.” Washington, DC: Gallaudet University. Used with permission from the Gallaudet University Alumni Association. Revised by Vivion Smith and Ellen Beck.
Gallaudet University, chartered in 1864, is a private university for deaf and hard of hearing students.
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