Former surgeon general C. Everett Koop died Monday at age 96, the LA Times reports. Koop held the position from 1982, until 1989. He was the first to take the previously low profile job, and use it as a platform to push a health-oriented agenda.
Among the things Koop is remembered for as surgeon general is endorsing the use of condoms and sexual education, with the goal of stopping the spread of AIDS. The move surprised his conservative allies. He also embarked on a campaign to eradicate smoking in the United States. His goal was for smoking to be a thing of the past by the year 2000, with him comparing cigarettes to heroin and cocaine.
Of course, the surgeon general has no power to set government policy, but that never stopped Koop. He became a recognizable figure, describing himself as “the health conscience of the country.”
Initially, it was thought that Koop would use his position to promote religious ideas, including his anti-abortion stance. However, in meeting with Senate, he assured them he would do no such thing. He stayed true to his word, keeping his religious beliefs separate from what he thought would benefit the health of the country.
After his government career, Koop briefly took part in a medical information website during the dot-com craze. However, the site went bankrupt in 2001. Koop was married twice. His first wife, whom he married in 1938, died in 2007. He remarried in 2010.