Dr. C. Everett Koop

Surgeon general

Former surgeon general C. Everett Koop liked to play the part he was assigned. With his trademark beard and no-nonsense demeanor, he often appeared in public in the vice admiral's uniform of the Public Health Service, which came with the job. But he didn't just act the role; he embodied it. During his tenure from 1982 to 1989, Koop, who died Feb. 25 at 96, took a relatively obscure government position and infused it with a passion for improving public health that his successors still strive to equal.

By taking his messages directly to the public--via television or cross-country speaking tours--Koop...

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