Dr. 'Red' Duke dies; treated Connally after JFK shot

Story highlights

  • Dr. "Red" Duke, 86, dies in Houston
  • He often appeared on TV news shows to talk about medical issues

(CNN)Dr. James "Red" Duke Jr., the Texas surgeon who educated television viewers about health care and played a role in one of America's most traumatic days, died Tuesday in Houston, Memorial Hermann health system said in a statement. He was 86.

On November 22, 1963, Duke was working in Dallas when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated during a motorcade. Duke was the first surgeon to receive Kennedy at Parkland Hospital and attended to then-Gov. John Connally, who was seriously wounded while sitting in the open car with Kennedy.
Dr. James "Red" Duke Jr., the Texas surgeon who helped pioneer Life Flight, died at 86.
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    Dr. James "Red" Duke Jr., the Texas surgeon who helped pioneer Life Flight, died at 86.


Dr. James "Red" Duke Jr., the Texas surgeon who helped pioneer Life Flight, died at 86. 02:04
Duke, recognizable with a bushy mustache and colorful stories, was a media personality. He often talked about medical issues on network news shows and "Texas Health Reports," which educated millions about topics ranging from kidney stones to injury prevention to proper nutrition, the hospital's statement said.
    "Dr. Duke was a true pioneer -- a talented and tireless surgeon, a dedicated and inspiring educator, and a friend and mentor to everyone he met. He never sought to be a leader, but became one naturally through his brilliance, compassion, patience and selflessness," said Giuseppe N. Colasurdo, president of UTHealth and dean of UTHealth Medical School.
    Duke established the trauma service at the primary teaching hospital now called Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, the hospital statement said. He also helped pioneer Life Flight, the first air ambulance service in Texas.
    He was a founding member of the American Trauma Society, the hospital said.
    In recent years, Duke worked with the U.S. military to improve medical technology on the battlefield and dedicated himself to helping veterans transition into the civilian workforce.
    The Duke family issued a statement that said: "To countless colleagues, friends and patients, he was a skilled physician, innovative healthcare provider, exceptional communicator and dedicated conservationist. We, however, mourn him as a caring father, grandfather and devoted brother who will be deeply missed by his family."
    The hospital statement said Duke is survived by sister Helen Patricia Hipps; children Hank, Rebecca, Sara and Hallie; mother of the children Betty C. Kent; son-in-law Charles King; seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.