Beloved Charleston champion for children remembered

February 23, 2024
Dr. Charles P Darby Jr
Dr. Charles P. Darby Jr. contributed his memories during the 2024 SCETV special, "MUSC at 200: Then, Now, Next." Photo by Reece Funderburk

Pediatrician, philanthropist, visionary and champion for children’s health in South Carolina, Charles P. Darby Jr., M.D., died peacefully on Feb. 7. He was 90.

A Charleston native and founder of the MUSC Children’s Hospital in 1987, Dr. Darby’s life was filled with a passion to improve the lives and health of children in South Carolina. He earned his doctorate in medicine from MUSC in 1959, began internship training at Duke University and completed his pediatric residency at MUSC. In 1969, he conducted a fellowship in microbiology and infectious disease at The Hospital for Sick Children on Great Ormond Street in London, England. In 1982, he returned to his native South Carolina and to serve as chairman of Pediatrics at MUSC.

Dr. Charles P Darby Jr. was a champion for children in South Carolina and beyond. Photo Provided 

Dr. Darby was a long-standing champion for children in South Carolina for 60-plus years. Photo provided

During his tenure, he also recruited and laid the foundation for the Children’s Heart Program of South Carolina in 1997, established The Charles P. Darby Children’s Research Institute in February of 2005 and launched the MUSC Children’s Fund. Responsible for the success of numerous projects and efforts, he improved and elevated pediatric care for children and families throughout South Carolina.

Recently, MUSC President David J. Cole, M.D., FACS, reflected on how the depth of this loss affected so many.

“This is a profound loss for our institution, and it is important to remember the incredible legacy that Dr. Darby leaves behind,” Cole said. “His impact on the countless lives he touched will continue to be felt for generations. As we mourn his passing, let us honor his remarkable achievements by carrying forward his dedication to excellence, compassion and the pursuit of knowledge.”

Mark Scheurer, M.D., professor of pediatrics and chief of Children’s and Women’s, MUSC Health, recognized Dr. Darby for being a diligent leader and advocate for Children’s Health in the Palmetto State.

“As a tireless advocate for the tripartite mission, he valued people first and thus relentlessly recruited talent that would join him in his mission to advance care for children. More than anything, for a man so committed in his advocacy, his words were often few and well-considered.

"His warm approving smile and firm handshake spoke well enough, unless he felt compelled to speak. And when he did, he did so with clarity and with no apology. For the kids,” said Scheurer.

Dr. Darby, center, at the opening of the MUSC Children's Health R. Keith Summney Medical Pavilion in 2019. Photo by Anne Thompson 
Dr. Darby, center, at the grand opening of the MUSC Children's Health R. Keith Summey Medical Pavilion in 2019. Photo by Anne Thompson

Always a philanthropist at heart, Dr. Darby founded or co-founded many Lowcountry organizations, including the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Charleston, HALOS and the local United Way chapter.

Dr. Darby was predeceased by his wife, Joyce L. Darby, and a grandchild, William S. Parker. He is survived by his five children, multiple grandchildren and other family members.

His funeral was held on Feb. 12, at the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in downtown Charleston, with a reception at the Carolina Yacht Club.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in his honor to the Joyce and Charles Darby Family Foundation, 310 Broad Street, Charleston, SC 29401 or to the Charles P. Darby Jr. Department of Pediatrics Research Endowment, MUSC Children’s Hospital Fund, 59 Bee Street, MSC 201. Charleston, S.C. 29425. Email:

Dr. Charles P. Darby Jr. Tributes

Charlie Darby picked me up from the airport on August 13, 1996, for my first interview at MUSC. He proceeded to give me a personalized tour of both Charleston and Mount Pleasant. I had no idea how much this single gesture would change my life forever. It is truly inspiring to have someone you admire motivate you to learn and grow. For more than a quarter century I have had the great fortune of watching, learning from, and trying to emulate this great person.

Andrew M. Atz, M.D.,
Chair, Department of Pediatrics,
Professor of Pediatric Cardiology,
L. Lyndon Key, Jr. Endowed Chair

Dr. Darby had a profound and sustained impact on the health and well-being of children across South Carolina. The S.C. Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics remembers him as a humble servant, leader, advocate, educator, researcher, pediatrician, philanthropist and kind human.

Dr. Darby’s legacy is profound within his former trainees, the beautiful building, and many decades of advocacy. Above all, he was incredibly kind and generous, and that is what I remember most.

Elizabeth Mack, M.D.
Professor of Pediatrics, MUSC Children’s Health,
President of the S.C. Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics

Charlie Darby and I worked together over many years in our efforts to improve the care of children in filling our roles at MUSC – Charlie was chair of the Department of Pediatrics, and I was chief of Pediatric Surgery. Charlie Darby was a true and dedicated advocate for children and a visionary in fundraising for clinical care and research as a means of assuring the best facilities and staff for optimal care of children at MUSC. In short, he was a good and faithful servant for all children.

H. Biemann Othersen Jr., M.D.
Emeritus Professor of Surgery,
Emeritus Chief of Pediatric Surgery, MUSC Children’s Health

Charlie Darby was truly one of a kind. With his passing, his family and all of us who knew him professionally and personally have lost something special, but through his life, we have all gained even more that will continue to impact the world for generations. I had the great good fortune to have lunch with Dr. Darby last spring when he was almost 90 and recovered from some recent health issues. He drove himself there and was the same insightful, interesting and fun Charlie I had known for 28 years. He will be missed by many.

J. Phillip Saul, M.D.
Adjunct Professor, MUSC Department of Pediatrics,
Former Director of the Children’s Heart Program of South Carolina

One of the lasting legacies of Dr. Darby is the effort he made to develop the Ronald McDonald House in Charleston. Although it is not officially a part of MUSC, the house has been a tremendous asset for thousands of families over the years who have needed the comfort of a warm bed and hot meal while their beloved child is receiving care at MUSC Children’s Hospital. The impact of this legacy is felt on a daily basis.

Conrad Williams, M.D.
Director, Palliative Care Program, MUSC Health System

Dr. Darby and I first met when I was recruited here to help build pediatric neurosurgery and develop a research program for pediatric neurosciences. He was instrumental in my research lab development and made sure I would have space in the Children’s Research Institute, which bears his name. Dr. Darby and his family have always pushed MUSC and the Children’s Hospital to great heights, emphasizing innovation, collaboration and excellence in care. I am honored to have known him and to continue to work with his goals in mind.

Ramin Eskandari, M.D.
Surgical Director, Pediatric Neuroscience Institute
Chief, Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery

Dr. Darby’s vision for children in S.C. shone brightly and has illuminated the pathway for countless pediatric physicians and researchers for many more years to come.

Despite the monumental impact he had on innumerable physician careers and improving complex medical care for children, he himself never took the limelight but always pushed the focus forward on how to help as many children as possible. 

There is no finer example of what it means to be a pediatrician and a truly wonderful human being.

Michelle Hudspeth, M.D.
Daniel J. and Victoria P. Sullivan Chair in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology,
Director, Adult and Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation,
Division Chief, Pediatric Hematology/Oncology

No one has done more for children’s health in the state of South Carolina than Dr. Darby. His vision, his leadership, his integrity, his persistence, his passion and his willingness to go the extra mile at every turn are just a few of the things that made people want to follow him. He was second to none.

Barbara Rivers-Huey
Former Director of Development, Children’s Hospital Fund

Charlie Darby, M.D., was a force for good. He knew how to create a great academic department and medical center. He recruited faculty interested in research and optimal patient care to build the national reputation we now enjoy in children’s diseases. He and his philanthropic friends made sure we had great facilities for the superb faculty to work in. He will be missed, but his legacy lives on in the people and buildings that he brought here.

Jerry Reves, M.D.
Dean Emeritus, College of Medicine

Dr. Charles Darby was my mentor as a MUSC first-year medical student. His professionalism, compassion and dedication to patients taught me more about medicine than all the academic pedagogy. I knew very quickly I was in the presence of a great man. My lifetime hero!

Donald Johnson, M.D.
MUSC Board of Trustees

Dr. Darby was my friend, teacher, and mentor. As a student, I benefited from his wisdom and guidance. I realized I wanted to be a pediatrician, and he guided me down that path. He chose me as a resident at MUSC, and I was proud to stay at MUSC under his direction. I was one of four residents to remain behind and take care of the children too sick to be moved during Hurricane Hugo. For three days, side by side, we managed these children, and no one died during this terrible storm. Many of my fellow residents lost everything in the storm; I watched Dr. Darby come to their aid and support them not only as a teacher but as a friend. While in Columbia, one of his relatives was at USC and developed meningitis. When I called him to ask him did he want me to transfer him to Charleston — he replied: “You will do a great job taking care of him.” Wow, my old mentor actually trusted me. This was a moment I will treasure and never forget. He remained my friend until his death, and we talked frequently. He was a man I admired, and I will never forget what he gave me in values. By his example, Dr. Darby taught me, firsthand, love for children.

Guy Castles, M.D.
MUSC Board of Trustees

Dr. Darby was a good friend to MUSC. As many of you know, he dedicated his life to providing wonderful pediatric care. He will be greatly missed.

James Lemon, D.M.D.
Chairman, MUSC Board of Trustees

Dr. Darby was instrumental in starting our Child Life program at MUSC. By ensuring patients’ need for psychosocial and emotional support, need for therapeutic play were addressed during medical encounters, he showed a true commitment to healing the whole child. 

Betsy McMillan
anager, Child Life Department
hawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital

Dr. Darby’s impact on MUSC and the children of our state is profound. His tireless efforts to elevate clinical care for all children and support that with pediatric-focused research changed us all for the better.

Terrence E. Steyer, M.D.
Dean, College of Medicine, and Vice President for Medical Affairs

I met Dr. Darby in early 1996 when Select Health was getting started in S.C. We hit it off and realized that we could partner to expand access to care for children if we worked together. Dr. Darby has provided a vision for pediatric care in our state, and as DHEC confirmed, we improved infant mortality statistics with medical homes for all children, regardless of family income. His leadership provided the ongoing momentum for improved access, clinical research and physician recruitment in S.C.

I am forever grateful for my friendship with Dr. Charlie Darby.

Mike Jernigan
Chairman, MUSC Children’s Hospital Fund Board of Advisors

I first met Dr. Darby on a warm spring afternoon in 1989 when he picked me up at the airport in Charleston for my first visit there. I remember it as love at first sight with Dr. Darby, the MUSC Children’s Hospital and Charleston. His sense of humor, deep commitment to children and the community, as well as his vision of improving pediatric care through research, led me very quickly to decide on the move to MUSC. Charlie, as I started calling him later, leaves behind a rich legacy of care, service and institution building, but most importantly, he leaves behind those of us whom he trained, mentored and inspired to do better and improve the care of children everywhere. We will always remember his warm friendship, wise counsel, commitment and how much fun it was to be around him. Rest in peace, dear friend; your presence will be missed, but your legacy lives on.

Miguel R. Abboud, M.D.
Chairman, Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine
American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon

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