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Richmond, Julius B. 1916–2008

Richmond, Julius B. 1916–2008

(Julius Richmond, Julius Benjamin Richmond)


See index for CA sketch: Born September 26, 1916, in Chicago, IL; died of cancer, July 27, 2008, in Chestnut Hill (some sources cite Brookline), MA. Physician, pediatrician, surgeon-general, educator, and author. Richmond was by training and vocation a pediatrician and educator, but his lasting achievements emerged from his dogged campaigns on behalf of public health in America. Richmond taught pediatrics at the State University of New York Upstate Medical Center for more than fifteen years between 1953 and 1970. Midway through his tenure he was called to the nation's capital during President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty to implement an experimental program to improve the potential of America's poorest, most disadvantaged children. Project Head Start was a stunning success; since its inception in 1965 as an eight-week local experiment, the preschool enrichment program, staffed largely by motivated volunteers, has helped tens of millions of children to prepare for kindergarten, and for life.

In 1971 Richmond moved to Harvard University as a professor of child psychiatry and human development. Again, early in his tenure he was called to Washington, this time as surgeon-general of the United States under President Jimmy Carter. Despite serious budget constraints, Richmond plunged into the task of improving the health of his nation. In 1979 he published Healthy People: The Surgeon General's Report on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. For the first time, policymakers, health professionals, and ordinary citizens had more than 200 specific steps to follow toward longer, healthier lives. As surgeon-general, Richmond also launched a ferocious battle against cigarette smoking and the tobacco industry. He proclaimed tobacco to be a proven cause of lung cancer, heart disease, and other life-threatening conditions, calling smoking a man-made epidemic of unmatched proportions in the history of mankind. He was responsible for the warning labels that appear on American cigarette packages to this day. Richmond testified in class-action lawsuits against tobacco companies, even in retirement.

During his time as surgeon-general, he also declassified homosexuality as a "medical illness," he advocated national health care for all Americans, immunization for all children, and legalization of marijuana for cancer patients in chemotherapy. Richmond retired officially from Harvard in 1983 as the John D. MacArthur Professor Emeritus of Health Policy, and ended his teaching career altogether in 1988, but he never resigned from his role as an advocate for public health. Richmond was honored with many awards, including the Martha May Eliot Award of the American Public Health Association and, in 2003, the Heinz Award in Public Policy of the Heinz Family Foundation. The Center of Excellence of the American Academy of Pediatrics was named in his honor. Richmond authored or edited many books in addition to his influential government reports. They include About You and Smoking (1971), Monitoring Child Health in the United States: Selected Issues and Policies (1984), Child Health, Nutrition, and Physical Activity (1995), and The Health Care Mess: How We Got into It and What It Will Take to Get Out (2005).



Chicago Tribune July 30, 2008, sec. 2, p. 9.

Los Angeles Times, July 30, 2008, p. B8.

New York Times, July 30, 2008, p. C14.

Times (London, England), August 19, 2008, p. 54.

Washington Post, July 30, 2008, p. B6.

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