Sat Jul 28, 2012, 11:26 AM
Cooley Hurd (25,376 posts)
James D. Watkins, who led Reagan’s commission on AIDS in the 1980s, dies at 85
Retired Navy Adm. James D. Watkins, who displayed independence in politically charged waters as energy secretary under President George H.W. Bush and as chairman of an influential commission on the AIDS epidemic in the late 1980s, died July 26 at his home in Alexandria. He was 85. He had congestive heart failure, said his wife, Janet Watkins.
Adm. Watkins was an imposing figure in his Navy dress blues — a nuclear submarine officer who stood 6-foot-4 and was known as “Radio-Free Watkins” for his blunt outspokenness. As chief of naval operations from 1982 to 1986, Adm. Watkins served as the Navy’s top-ranking officer and representative on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was considered an architect of the Reagan-era Strategic Defense Initiative, the proposed missile shield and planned response to a Soviet nuclear attack.
In 1987, President Ronald Reagan named him to lead the President’s Commission on the HIV Epidemic. A Catholic and Republican, Adm. Watkins was an unlikely candidate for the panel. In addition, he said his experience dealing with HIV/AIDS was limited.
“He told the president, ‘I’m a sailor and a submariner, and I know nothing about medicine,’ ” his wife, Janet, said in an interview. “But Reagan told him, ‘You’re exactly who we’re looking for.’ ”
Under Adm. Watkins, the panel advocated the passage of anti-discrimination laws for AIDS patients and the need for laws to protect the rights and privacy of those with AIDS. He was most eloquent in describing the loneliness afflicting those with the disease.
“All you have to do is walk in to the pediatric ward of Harlem Hospital and see those children,” Adm. Watkins once said. “Nobody wants them. They have no place to go. That gets you.”
He added that he was profoundly affected by testimony about a 12-year-old boy infected with HIV and ostracized by classmates. The child was ridiculed, his parents received death threats and the family’s car was pelted with stones.
Anthony S. Fauci, who oversees AIDS research at the National Institutes of Health, said in an interview that Adm. Watkins was an early and crucial advocate for AIDS patients
Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/james-d-watkins-who-led-reagans-commission-on-aids-in-the-1980s-dies-at-85/2012/07/27/gJQA4LSpEX_story.html?Post+generic=%3Ftid%3Dsm_twitter_washingtonpost
He tried, but his boss was tone-deaf to the plight.
Cross gently Admiral.
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James D. Watkins, who led Reagan’s commission on AIDS in the 1980s, dies at 85 (Original post)
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