I remember him as being a straight shooter about matters under Reagan. As Reagan’s Surgeon General I see that he took his own advice about eating well and not smoking.  As Yahoo noted, he ticked off a lot of people:

He took stern and sometimes controversial stands on abortion, AIDS, fatty foods, drugs and cigarettes, and moved through the halls of convinced that he knew what was best for the nation’s health.

Koop enraged the powerful tobacco industry and lawmakers grateful for the industry’s generous campaign funds with his insistence that smoking kills and should be banned.

He is most remembered for his solution to the AIDs epidemic: education. Yahoo put it delicately:

Then, in the midst of a heated national debate about how best to halt the spread of AIDS, Koop blocked the Reagan administration’s plans for extensive testing. To the applause of gay groups, Koop said the disclosure of the test results, intentional or otherwise, could ruin the careers of those tested.

He spearheaded the drive to make education about AIDS the primary means of preventing the disease, writing a brochure about AIDS that was distributed to millions of households. Attired in the authoritative white military dress uniform of the Public Service and its 7,000-member medical corps he disclosed to the public the glum, often indelicate, details of the disease and how to avoid it.

He was often blunt:

He urged men to use condoms – if they were unable to abstain from sex – to prevent the spread of AIDS, which is transmitted through semen or blood.

He even ticked off people on the right:

At the time, conservative activist and Koop critic blasted Koop and his attempts at educating the public as “teaching of safe sodomy in public schools.” She demanded, unsuccessfully, that Koop stop preaching about safe sex.

As well as those on the left:

At his confirmation hearings before the Senate, he was blasted by one feminist leader as “a monster” for his deeply held position against abortion.

I remember also that times were simpler then as well.


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