By taking his messages directly to the public–via television or cross-country speaking tours–Koop galvanized antismoking efforts, leading to the smoke-free workplaces, airplanes, hotels and restaurants we have today. He also became an outspoken AIDS educator, even as the Reagan Administration in which he served was slow to confront the disease. Despite his personal convictions about the importance of abstinence until marriage, a controversial report he prepared on HIV acknowledged the value of condoms in curbing the virus’s spread. Frustrated by the Administration’s failure to act, he mailed an AIDS brochure to 100 million U.S. households. Says Paul Billings, senior vice president for advocacy and education for the American Lung Association: “He was the personification of what the surgeon general can and should be.”
This text originally appeared in the March 11 issue of TIME magazine.
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