Passages: Julius Richmond, Founding Director of Head Start

Julius B. Richmond, MacArthur professor of health policy emeritus and a revered figure among scholars and politicians, died Sunday...

Julius B. Richmond, MacArthur professor of health policy emeritus and a revered figure among scholars and politicians, died Sunday, as noted in yesterday's Boston Globe and New York Times. He was 91.

Richmond taught at Harvard Medical School from 1970 to 1977 and again from 1981 until his retirement, serving as surgeon general of the United States under President Carter in the interim.

In 1979, the Globe noted, he "issued a memo ending the policy that allowed U.S. quarantine officers to detain those arriving from foreign countries who they believed were gay or lesbian on the grounds that their sexual orientation was the product of a mental disease or defect."

Before coming to Harvard, Richmond had served in the Johnson administration and successfully argued for the creation of a federally funded early-childhood education program. The concept was based on Richmond's research as chair of the pediatrics department at the State University of New York College of Medicine at Syracuse. Studying children from very poor families, Richmond found a decline in cognitive function around the age of 18 months and designed a program of educational day care aiming to avoid that decline. The program, then called Project Head Start, launched in the summer of 1964. It continues today, and has served more than 20 million American children, according to the Times.

Richmond received his B.S. and M.D. from the University of Illinois. His honorary Harvard degree, awarded in 2002, read: "Farsighted architect of initiatives in health, master builder of bridges linking academy and community, for whom nothing is more precious than the life of a child."

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