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J. Willis Hurst papers, 1937-2011

Emory University

Emory University Archives

Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library

Atlanta, GA 30322



Permanent link: http://pid.emory.edu/ark:/25593/ckvr5

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Hurst, J. Willis (John Willis), 1920-2011.
Title: J. Willis Hurst papers, 1937-2011
Call Number:Series No. 195
Extent: 5.75 linear feet (11 boxes) and 11 oversize paper folders (OP)
Abstract:The collection consists of professional and personal papers, 1937-2011, of J. Willis Hurst, a cardiologist, faculty member at Emory University, and physician to President Lyndon B. Johnson. The collection includes correspondence, writings, printed materials, teaching materials, and research materials related to cardiology, pedagogy, medicine, and pharmaceuticals, as well as photographs and personal records. The collection also includes correspondence, photographs, and memorabilia, relating to J. Willis Hurst's medical care for Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1950s and 1970s, and to the personal relationship between Hurst and the Johnson family. Prominent persons represented in the collection include Lyndon B. Johnson, Lady Bird Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, and Pearl Bailey.
Language:Materials entirely in English.

Administrative Information

Restrictions on Access

Special restrictions apply: Selected materials have been separated and restricted in accordance with Emory University Archives access policy for doctor/patient records and personnel files.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.

Related Materials in Other Repositories

J. Willis Hurst papers, Health Sciences Archives, Health Sciences Center Library, Emory University.


Gift, 2011 (Acc. 2011-12-01)


[after identification of item(s)], J. Willis Hurst papers, Emory University Archives, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.


Processed by Noemi Molitor, August 2012.

Collection Description

Biographical Note

J. Willis Hurst, M.D. (1920-2011), cardiologist, professor of medicine, and writer, provided medical care to President Lyndon B. Johnson from 1955-1973. The only child of John and Verna Bell Hurst, John Willis Hurst was born in Cooper, Ky., on October 21, 1920. When he was eleven months old, the family moved to Carroll County, Ga., where his father became principal of a small school. Hurst entered West Georgia College in Carrollton at age 16. After two years in the college, he transferred to the University of Georgia where he graduated with a B.Sc. in chemistry and zoology. He entered the Medical College of Georgia in 1941 and graduated first in his class in 1944.

In 1948, after internship and residency training in Augusta, Ga., and two years in the United States Army at Fitzsimmons General Hospital, Dr. Hurst became a cardiac fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital under Dr. Paul Dudley White. After completion of the fellowship, he first established a private practice in Atlanta, Ga., in 1949, then, in 1950, accepted an offer to join the faculty of Emory University. He was briefly recalled to military service in 1954 and assigned to the United States Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Md., where he was appointed Chief of Cardiology. When Lyndon Baines Johnson, then majority leader of the Senate, suffered a heart attack July 2, 1955, Dr. Hurst became his cardiologist and remained in that role until Johnson's death in 1973.

After his discharge from military service in 1955, Hurst returned to Emory where he resumed teaching and practicing consultative cardiology. In 1957, at the age of 36, he was named Chairman of the Department of Medicine at Emory, a position he held until 1986. He continued to teach after retiring from that position. In 1991, Dr. Hurst was named as a consultant to the Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, at Emory and continued in this role until 2007.

Over the span of his career, Hurst edited over 60 books and authored over 350 scientific articles. Of special note are the books The Heart, which he created and edited for seven editions; Medicine for the Practicing Physician, which he created and edited for four editions; and The Quest for Excellence: the history of the Department of Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine, 1834-1986 which he authored in 1997.

Dr. Hurst passed away on October 1, 2011 at the age of 90. He was preceded in death by Nelie Hurst, his wife of 61 years. He was survived by three sons, John, Steve and Phil, and their extended families.

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of professional and personal papers, 1973-2011, of J. Willis Hurst, including correspondence, printed materials, manuscripts, typescripts, photographs, and memorabilia.

The collection documents Hurst's various appointments as a cardiologist, teacher and researcher. These include the Bethesda Naval Hospital, Grady Hospital, the Department of Medicine at Emory University where Hurst was appointed chairman in 1957, and his presidency of the Georgia Heart Association.

Writings by Hurst (Series 2) include manuscripts and typescripts related to his professional publications on cardiology, medical and pharmaceutical research, and biographical/auto-biographical writings on Lyndon B. Johnson. Research materials (Series 4) include slides, electrocardiograms and notes that are related to Hurst's publications in the field of cardiology. Hurst's teaching philosophy and approach to patient care are reflected in Correspondence (Series 1), Writings (Series 2), and Professional photographs (Series 6.1.1).

The collection contains the Lyndon B. Johnson Files, 1955-2011 (Series 7) relating to Hurst's medical care for Lyndon Baines Johnson, former president of the United States; including professional photographs of Lyndon B. Johnson at the White House and other locations; and materials relating to the personal relationship between Hurst and the Johnson family, such as correspondence, Johnson family publications, inscribed photographs, and memorabilia. Presidential memorabilia include various items bearing the vice-presidential and presidential seals given to Hurst by Lyndon B. Johnson.

The Lyndon B. Johnson files also include oral history interviews conducted by the Oral History Project of the Lyndon B. Johnson Library with Hurst on the topic of his work and relationship with Johnson.

Professional photographs of Hurst (Series 6.1.1) and Professional photographs in the Lyndon B. Johnson files (7.6.1) feature other former presidents of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and James "Jimmy" Carter.

Prominent correspondents (Series 1.1) in the collection include Paul Dudley White, M.D., under whom Dr. Hurst worked as a cardiac fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital; Eugene A. Stead, Jr., M.D., first time full-chair of the Emory Department of Medicine (1942-1946); Charles Huggins, LT, MC, USNR from the Naval Medical Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland; Dr. Arthur Richardson, Dean of Emory School of Medicine from 1956-1979; and Richard M. Krause, M.D., Dean of Emory University School of Medicine.

Topics discussed in correspondence (Series 1.1) include teaching strategies and patient care, as well as pharmaceutical concerns, research papers, and articles and books by Hurst and others, various awards and honors received by Hurst, and his retirement as chairman of the Department of Medicine at Emory University in 1986. Correspondence includes letters from colleagues and former students, as well as thank you letters from former patients.

Significant events featured in the collection include awards and honors received by Hurst, such as Hurst's selection as one of "Atlanta's Hundred Leaders of Tomorrow" by the Committee for Atlanta's future and TIME magazine in 1953 (see Series 1.1 and 1.2). Several photographs in Series 6.1 feature singer and actress Pearl Bailey who received the 1972 Heart of the Year award, formerly received by Lyndon B. Johnson, and the late President Dwight Eisenhower. The collection also includes various Printed materials (Series 5), including a transcript of a 1972 interview with Hurst on the National Broadcasting Company's radio show "Meet the Press."

The collection also personal records including diplomas and transcripts and photographs (Series 6.1.1) related to international exchanges between the Emory Department of Medicine and medical institutions in China, Cuba and Japan.

Arrangement Note

Organized into seven series: (1) Correspondence, (2) Writings, (3) Printed material, (4) Teaching and research materials, (5) Personal records, (6) Photographs, and (7) Lyndon B. Johnson files.

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