Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County
A cardiologist, Luther L. Terry served as Surgeon General of the U.S. from 1961-1965. He contributed to books about the hazards of smoking.
Luther L. Terry was born in Alabama in 1911, and he went on to receive his B.S. from Birmingham Southern University and his M.D. from Tulane University. He worked at numerous universities and medical schools. He made a difference in the medical world by working as the Surgeon General. He wrote his professional papers on the subjects he loved the most, such as promoting awareness of the health hazards of smoking. He concluded his career at the University of Pennsylvania, where he continued doing research on the causal relation between smoking and certain illnesses that are detrimental to a person’s health. Terry passed away on March, 29 1985, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Luther L. Terry was born in Red Level, Alabama, on September 15, 1911, to James Edward and Lula M. Terry. He began his schooling at Birmingham Southern University where he received his B.S. in 1931. Terry then moved on to receive his M.D. at Tulane University in 1935, and he ater interned in Birmingham at Hillman Hospital and served his residency in Cleveland hospitals. As his career moved along, he taught at Washington University and served as an assistant professor of preventive medicine and public health at University of Texas at Austin. Johns Hopkins Medical School then asked him to join their faculty, and he accepted a position as a staff member of the U.S. Public Health Service Hospital. He also held different positions at the National Institutes of Health. In Baltimore, Maryland, Terry made a huge impact on cardiovascular research. The Department of Health and Human Services’s biography on him states, “Terry and his team lead the foundations for what has been called the Golden Era of cardiovascular clinical investigation.” Because he was so well known, President Kennedy appointed him to the position of Surgeon General of the Public Health Service on March 2, 1961. During his term, a report was written on the correlation between smoking, lung cancer, and chronic bronchitis. Terry chose to endorse this report and established the Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health. Not only did this advisory committee find that these illnesses were causally related to smoking, but they also found that other illnesses such as emphysema and cardiovascular disease are related. “Surgeon General’s Warning: Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, and May Complicate Pregnancy” (CDC 1) is the label that has been put on all cigarette boxes from the Surgeon General. Throughout his tenure in office, Terry waged a continuous anti-smoking campaign. Even after Terry left his position as Surgeon General on October 1, 1965, he continued playing a role in the campaign against smoking. He became a chairman on the National Interagency Council on Smoking and Health from 1967 to 1969, and he was a consultant to many groups such as American Cancer Society. He became a member of the faculty of the Medical School at the University of Pennsylvania from 1965 to 1975. After retiring, he served as the Corporate Vice President for Medical Affairs in 1982 and also acted as a consultant to ARA Services, Inc. From 1968 to 1973, he wrote a collection of papers that reflected his main research interests on smoking and health. He did most of this through his participation in the organizations and councils he sat on. There is also a sizable group of reference material that hold articles, brochure reprints, and reports on his main research interests since 1960. There is still work from when he conducted research on Mitochondria in 1982. He tried to keep record of everything he did so that he could pass the information on to future generations. Terry died on April 29, 1985, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He left behind his wife, Janet Reynolds Terry, and his three children: Luther L. Jr., Michael D. Terry, and Jan Terry Kollock. He also left behind his legacy. There are many awards and fellowships held in his name to honor him. Luther L. Terry Awards are given by the American Cancer Society for excellence of leadership in tobacco control. There are five separate categories that the awards use to recognize “heroes” throughout the world who promote anti-tobacco laws. The Luther Terry Fellowship “serves to provide experience in a health policy setting and will benefit the ODPHP (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion) by providing clinical research and technical expertise in order to support the Department’s preventive service goals” (ODPHP). This gives clinicians an opportunity to receive valuable experience and the opportunity to help implement health policy development. Luther L. Terry’s name continues to be associated with public health and the fight against tobacco usage.