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Dawne Y. Curry

On 8 September 1993, Bill Clinton, the forty-second president of the United States, selected Joycelyn Elders as the nation’s surgeon general of the Public Health Service. In this capacity, Elders argued for legislation supporting universal health coverage and advocated on behalf of President Clinton’s health care reform effort. While Elders lobbied for comprehensive health education, she also supported sex education in secondary schools. Her rather blunt opinions, especially concerning masturbation and safe sex, earned her the nickname “Condom Queen.” In 1994, after fifteen months of service, she resigned from this appointment. Elders returned to the University of Arkansas Medical Center, where she had previously served as a professor of pediatrics.

Elders was born Minnie Lee Jones in Schaal, Arkansas. Her mother, Haller, and her father, Curtis Jones were sharecroppers subject to the appalling poverty and exploitation of that position in the South Minnie the oldest ...

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Jennifer Jensen Wallach

physician and U.S. surgeon general from 1993 to 1994. Born in rural Arkansas to sharecropper parents, Minnie Lee Jones received a scholarship to attend Philander Smith College in Little Rock at the age of fifteen. While in college she added “Joycelyn” to her name and ultimately used only that. After receiving a degree in biology in 1952, she worked briefly in a Veterans Administration hospital and then in 1953 enlisted in the U.S. Army, where she received training as a physical therapist.

After leaving the army in 1956, Jones attended the University of Arkansas Medical School (UAMS) and received her MD in 1960. Also in 1960 she married Oliver Elders, with whom she had two sons. In 1967 she earned a master of science degree in biochemistry and also joined the faculty of the UAMS in 1967, becoming a full professor in 1976 ...

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Joycelyn Elders was born Minnie Joycelyn Jones in Schaal, a poor, remote farming village of southwestern Arkansas. Her parents, Haller and Curtis Jones, were sharecroppers, and all eight of their children—Joycelyn was the oldest—worked with them in the cotton fields. The family shared a three-room cabin with no electricity, and the children walked several miles to attend an all-black school. At the age of fifteen, Elders received a scholarship to Little Rock's Philander Smith College, also a school for blacks. There, she met a doctor for the first time in her life and Edith Jones, the first black woman to attend the University of Arkansas Medical School (UAMS). Elders later credited these experiences with inspiring her to become a doctor.

Elders received a bachelor's degree in 1952 and spent the better part of the next two decades advancing in the medical profession First she served in the ...