The Presidents' Doctor : An Insider's View of Three First Families

Jr., Milton F. Heller

Published by Vantage Pr
ISBN 10: 0533131596 / ISBN 13: 9780533131594
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Synopsis: The Presidents’ Doctor: An Insider’s View of Three First Families is a biography of the late Joel Thompson Boone, Vice Admiral, Medical Corps, U.S. Navy (Retired). It touches on all aspects of this man’s diverse career, with emphasis on the eleven years he served as physician/confidant to three First Families—Harding, Coolidge and Hoover.

This extraordinary person served his nation with great distinction as naval officer, physician, humanitarian and administrator in the first part of the twentieth century. Joel Boone was a fighter—for his country, for upholding the highest standards of the medical profession, in helping his fellow man and woman, and in repelling repeated threats to his own health.

Boone was born and brought up in the anthracite coal region of Pennsylvania. Son of a hard drinking and demanding father, a feed merchant, the lad had a rough start in life, losing his mother at an early age, enduring subsequently the presence of a mean-spirited stepsister, and working from dawn to dusk before and after school with only a cold plate for supper. But late in his teens, things began to look up when he met Helen Koch, the young lady who was to become his wife and helpmate in pursuing a long and fascinating life. Then the opportunity to spend his senior high school year at Mercersburg Academy, a fine preparatory school, made an important contribution to his education and personal development. It also led to a close and lasting association with the school.

Upon graduation from Mercersburg and Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia, Boone joined the navy and served with the Marines in Haiti and then again in World War I in France with the Second Division. It was this front-line exposure that offered the opportunity for heroic deeds and led to an incredible record as the most highly decorated member of the navy medical service.

Having gained the attention of senior naval officers as a result of earning the Congressional Medal of Honor among other decorations in France, Boone and his wife, Helen, were invited in 1922 to the White House for tea with First Lady Florence Harding. Only later did they learn that the purpose was to determine whether Boone was socially acceptable as a candidate for the position of medical officer aboard the presidential yacht, the USS Mayflower. Soon the man who might have become just another country doctor found himself on the national stage, with responsibility for caring for the health of the nation’s chief executive, his family and staff. No one was to become better acquainted with the personalities—one might even say White House secrets—of the administrations of the 1920s. Boone was a figure of importance, in a position to know a great deal. By the end of his life, he could count nine presidents--Harding through Nixon--as friends.

Following White House duty, Boone served at sea and ashore in various capacities, including duty with Admiral William F. Halsey as Third Fleet Medical Officer. At the end of World War II, he was the first person to go ashore in the Tokyo Bay area, where, characteristically, he sought out and found many hundreds of neglected, war-weary U.S. and other Allied prisoners. During the administration of President Harry S Truman, Boone led a historic medical survey of the bituminous coal industry, which was cited in congressional hearings as recently as May 17, 2000. Subsequently, he managed the world’s largest non-military hospital system as chief medical director of the Veterans Administration. Following an extended illness, Boone died on April 2, 1974.

Boone was a maverick who did not consider himself a maverick because he usually adhered to convention, dressing immaculately, paying attention to protocols of the navy and society, applying strict moral and ethical codes to himself as well as to others. He did not look the part, as he was a mere 5 feet 6, but he had a mind that sought to make sense out of every situation he encountered, and if it did not make sense he said so.

Boone’s independence caused him to risk confrontation that most other officers would have sidestepped.

He was willing to incur the wrath of a patient, the President of the United States, in an effort to protect the health of the president and his family in a manner the president found distasteful.

He did not hesitate to tell his incompetent boss, the surgeon general of the navy, that he should resign in the best interests of navy medicine.

He insisted on treating a patient needing help despite the orders of a superior not to do so.

He testified to congress in opposition to plans of his boss to close military hospitals that Boone felt were needed.

He lectured medical colleagues on perceived greed and failure to consider best interests of the patient above all else.

There was another notable characteristic. Boone considered himself on an equal footing with line officers and on occasion fought as one of them, ignoring the tradition of subservience associated with the role of a staff officer. This certainly contributed to his nonpareil war record.

In recognition of Boone’s outstanding achievements, including those as a leader of a number of organizations, his name has been memorialized by attaching it to a navy medical clinic in Little Creek, Virginia, Boone Hall at Mercersburg Academy, an annual award of the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States, and the USS Boone, a guided missile frigate still in active service in 2000.

Boone kept voluminous notes and collected a mass of documents, photographs and newspaper clippings, which in later years of life he organized in a huge account as a basis for an autobiography. Failing health prevented him from fulfilling that ambition. Now for the first time, his life story is told by his son-in-law in The Presidents’ Doctor.

From the Author: During his lifetime Dr. Boone was hounded by publishers seeking to write his life story. He put them off, intending to write it himself once he had the time. He never did find the time. However, many years later after I had retired, I felt privileged to write a biography that I hope would meet with his approval.

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Title: The Presidents' Doctor : An Insider's View ...
Publisher: Vantage Pr
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: New

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