Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Dr. C. Everett Koop, former U.S. surgeon general, dead at 96

Dr. C. Everett Koop, widely regarded as the most influential surgeon general in U.S. history and who played a crucial role in changing attitudes about smoking, died Monday at his home in Hanover, N.H. He was 96.

In 1981, Dr. Koop was 66 and had never served in public office when President Ronald Reagan appointed him surgeon general. By the time he stepped down in 1989, he had become a household name, a rare distinction for a public health administrator.

Dr. Koop issued emphatic warnings about the dangers of smoking, and he pushed the government into taking a more aggressive stand against AIDS. And despite his steadfast moral opposition to abortion, he refused to use his office as a pulpit from which to preach against it.

These stands led many liberals who had bitterly opposed his nomination to praise him, and many conservatives who had supported his appointment to vilify him. Conservative politicians representing tobacco-growing states were among his harshest critics, and many Americans, for moral or religious reasons, were upset by his public programs to fight AIDS and felt betrayed by his relative silence on abortion.

As much as anyone, it was Dr. Koop who took the lead in trying to wean Americans off smoking, and he did so in imposing fashion. At a sturdy 6-foot-1, with his bushy gray biblical beard, Dr. Koop would appear in the gold-braided dark-blue uniform of a vice admiral — the surgeon general's official uniform, which he revived — and sternly warn of the terrible consequences of smoking.

"Smoking kills 300,000 Americans a year," he said in one talk. "Smokers are 10 times more likely to develop lung cancer than nonsmokers, two times more likely to develop heart disease. Smoking a pack a day takes six years off a person's life."

When Dr. Koop took office, 33 percent of Americans smoked; when he left, the percentage had dropped to 26.

Dr. Koop also played a major role in educating Americans about AIDS. Though he believed that the nation had been slow in facing the crisis, he extolled its efforts once it did, particularly in identifying HIV, the virus that causes the disease, and developing a blood test to detect it.

Dr. C. Everett Koop was appointed by President 
Ronald Reagan as the U.S. surgeon general in 1981.

Associated Press (2002)

Dr. C. Everett Koop was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as the U.S. surgeon general in 1981.

Dr. C. Everett Koop, former U.S. surgeon general, dead at 96 02/25/13 [Last modified: Monday, February 25, 2013 10:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Editorial: Scott's poor choice for CFO

    Editorials

    Gov. Rick Scott didn't reach too deeply into Florida's talent pool in appointing his friend Jimmy Patronis to fill a vacancy as the state's new chief financial officer. This is an exceptionally weak choice for a Cabinet post that requires a sophisticated understanding of banking and other financial services, and it …

    Jimmy Patronis’ selection is about politics.
  2. Sign up for our daily News at Noon email newsletter

    News

    The Tampa Bay Times will soon launch a daily newsletter called News at Noon. You can make sure to be among the first to receive it by signing up now.

  3. Tampa Bay child welfare agencies get additional state funding, plan to hire more social workers

    News

    TAMPA — Buoyed by the award of an additional $3 million in state funding, Eckerd Kids plans to hire more social workers to ease the strain on Hillsborough County's overburdened child welfare system.

    The child welfare system in Hillsborough County will get an additional $3 million in funding for the upcoming fiscal  year beginning July 1, according to Eckerd Kids, the agency contracted to run the system by the state.
  4. Bill Nelson knocks Rick Scott over Senate health bill

    Blogs

    Sen. Bill Nelson attacked Gov. Rick Scott, his likely 2018 rival, over today's trip to Washington.

  5. For starters: Rays at Pirates, with Hechavarria active, Robertson sent down

    Blogs

    UPDATE, 3:26: And the Rays indeed have Hechavarria at SS and Beckham at 2B. Also, with no DH Dickerson is in left.

    Rays lineup:
    Smith cf,
    Dickerson lf,
    Longoria 3b,
    Morrison 1b,
    Souza rf,
    Ramos c,
    Beckham 2b,
    Hechavarria ss,
    Cobb p

    And the …

    The stellar view from the press box at PNC Park.