With his long silver beard and uniform with braided trim, former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop became one of the most recognizable figures of the Reagan era - and one of the most unexpectedly enduring.
He died today at his home in Hanover, N.H., at age 96
His nomination in 1981 met a wall of opposition from women's groups and liberal politicians, who complained President Ronald Reagan selected Koop, a pediatric surgeon and evangelical Christian from Philadelphia, only because of his conservative views, especially his staunch opposition to abortion.
In this May 12, 1997, file photo, former Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop discusses the proposed increase of the New Hampshire cigarette tax at the governor's office in the Statehouse in Concord, H.H. Koop died today in Hanover, N.H. He was 96.
Soon, though, he was a hero to AIDS activists, who chanted "Koop, Koop" at his appearances but booed other officials. And when he left his post in 1989, he left behind a landscape where AIDS was a top research and educational priority, smoking was considered a public health hazard, and access to abortion remained largely intact.
Koop, who turned his once-obscure post into a bully pulpit for seven years during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, surprised both ends of the political spectrum by setting aside his conservative personal views on issues such as homosexuality and abortion to keep his focus sharply medical.