This is a tribute to Dr. Quentin Young, a resident of Hyde Park for most of his life, who was a dedicated advocate for single payer healthcare and a civil rights advocate. He died yesterday at 92. I met him once, in an educational seminar at Northwestern University (there were only 12 of us) in 1992. His humility and compassion, his seriousness of purpose and generosity of spirit, his political advocacy for those whose voices were underrepresented and disempowered, were rock solid and inspirational. He was a creative and out of the box thinker, totally committed to social justice.
The following is an article Marwa Eltagouri, Contact Reporter for the Chicago Tribune, wrote about him today:
xxxxxxxxMarch 8, 6:59pm
Dr. Quentin Young, a champion of civil rights and public health reform who was chairman of medicine at Cook County Hospital during a tumultuous period in the 1970s, died Monday, according to his family.
Young, 92, died of natural causes in the Berkeley, Calif., home of his daughter Polly, where he had been living since July 2014, his son Michael said. He had lived in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood for most of his life.
Young maintained his Hyde Park medical practice into his mid-80s while also keeping busy with any number of causes. He pushed to end discriminatory practices at Chicago-area hospitals in the 1950s, co-founded the Medical Committee for Human Rights in the 1960s, marched for civil rights and against war and spent decades advocating for national health care.
“It’s true that over the years I’ve aligned myself with unpopular causes,” Young told the Tribune in 2001. “But over time they’ve become the majority opinions.”
The son of immigrants, Young grew up on the South Side and graduated from Hyde Park High School. He was active in drama and, in a 1992 Tribune interview, recalled taking the “L” to the North side for classes at the Jack and Jill Players with a Hyde Park classmate, Mel Torme. It was also as a young thespian that he met the writer and actor Studs Terkel, who later became a friend and patient.
Young’s studies at the University of Chicago were interrupted by a hitch in the Army during World War II. After getting his bachelor’s degree from the U. of C. in 1944, he received his medical degree from Northwestern University in 1947.
He began his medical training at Cook County Hospital and remained there until 1952. He then spent many years as a physician at Michael Reese Hospital on Chicago’s South Side before returning to Cook County Hospital, where he became chairman of medicine in 1972. He remained there until 1981, working to improve the county public health system’s economic vitality and its ability to help the poor and downtrodden.
Young was fired from his post at Cook County twice and rehired both times after standoffs with the hospital’s governing body. One major issue was his support of young staff doctors who went on strike for improved conditions.
In addition to his position with the county, Young was president of the Chicago Board of Health and the American Public Health Association, and he co-founded the Health and Medicine Policy Research Group.
Alongside his busy medical career, Young was equally active in agitating for social change. He was among the volunteers in the campaign to register black voters during Mississippi’s Freedom Summer in 1964. He participated in one of the historic 1965 marches from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. As founder and national chairman for the Medical Committee for Human Rights, he led efforts to provide medical care to campaign volunteers, civil rights workers and anti-war protesters.
He remained passionate about medical rights and public health equality throughout his life and was a longtime advocate for a single-payer health care system.
In August 2001, at age 77, he took part in an 167-mile, 15-day walk across Illinois to promote universal health care. Former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, a patient and close friend, recalled Young’s buoyancy throughout the march and the frequent aphorisms he’d share with those marching alongside him. A favorite: “Everybody in, nobody left out.”
“His wife, Ruth, came with us. We’d all be walking down a two-lane highway with Quentin, and he’d be walking along the center line. And she’d keep saying, ‘Quentin! Get out of the middle of the road!'” Quinn said. “I think that was the only time he was a middle-of-the-roader. He was a progressive — a liberal lion. Never flinched from a battle for his causes.”
In the early 1960s, Young regularly took his five children with him to demonstrations, which often were on behalf of the fight to desegregate public schools.
“Everyone thinks their experiences are normative, but it wasn’t until later that I realized those weren’t,” said Michael Young, who remembered visits to his home by civil rights leaders including Stokely Carmichael.
“My father had a real magnetism,” Michael Young said. “He was able to inspire people to activism in a way that was extraordinary. He was a very positive person and very funny. People sought out his company, and he just had this passionate belief in the causes he embraced.”
Young served as the physician for Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights leader’s many stops in Chicago. In his more than 50 years in private practice, other notable patients included Mayor Harold Washington and columnist Mike Royko.
Young is also survived by another son, Ethan; three daughters, Nancy, Polly and Barbara; two stepchildren, William Weaver and Karen Weaver; and nine grandchildren.
A first marriage ended in divorce. His second wife, Ruth, died in 2007.
Services in Chicago are being planned.