William Carter Jenkins

Jenkins—William Carter Jenkins, 73, on February 17, 2019, in Charleston, S.C. Bill was born on July 26, 1945, in Mount Pleasant, S.C., to Martha Wilson and Albert Daniel Jenkins Sr. His grandmother’s example of contemplation and Quaker values influenced him, and at an early age, he joined Friendship African Methodist Episcopal Church. He graduated from Laing Elementary School and Laing High School, although he attended a Catholic school for several years and was a devout Catholic when he went to Morehouse College. At Morehouse, he belonged to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was jailed with John Lewis for demonstrating in front of former Georgia Governor Lester Maddox’s restaurant. After graduating in mathematics in 1967, he earned a master’s in biostatistics from Georgetown University and a master’s in public health and a doctorate in epidemiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). He did postdoctoral work in biostatistics at Harvard University.

Starting in 1967, he worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the National Center for Health Statistics; the Division of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV Prevention; and in the National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention (NCHSTP), in which as supervisory epidemiologist he managed the Tuskegee Participant Health Benefits Program for the survivors (and families) of the infamous Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male. With CDC support, he founded Project Imhotep, a summer program preparing underrepresented undergraduate minorities for graduate school in public health, which later became Morehouse College’s Public Health Sciences Institute.

He married Diane Louise Rowley in 1983. He joined Atlanta (Ga.) Meeting and served on the Ministry and Worship Committee and the Friends School of Atlanta Board. During the 1980s he worked against apartheid in South Africa in the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) regional office. He was active in the Fellowship of Friends of African Descent and a national board member of AFSC. He later served on Carolina Friends School Board.

He helped to develop the first CDC National Minority AIDS conference, held in 1988. In 1991 he founded the Society for the Analysis of African American Public Health Issues. In the mid-’90s, on leave from CDC, he developed Morehouse’s master’s in public health program to address the shortage of minority public health leaders. He was instrumental in securing the Clinton Presidential Apology for the Tuskegee study and in 2002 produced a documentary with the study’s survivors. He led the development of the NCHSTP Minority Health Strategic Plan that resulted in the Office of Health Equity (then Health Disparities). Retiring from CDC in 2003, he returned to Morehouse to teach public health science and serve as associate director of the Research Center on Health Disparities. He received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from UNC in 2004.

In 2007, relating his spiritual journey, he said that he saw no conflict between science and God, because to him science is the study of God. He served on the governing council and executive board of the American Public Health Association (APHA), received the American College of Epidemiology Abraham Lilienfeld Award in 2009, addressed the opening session of the APHA in 2010, chaired the Epidemiology Section of the American Statistical Association, and served on the American College of Epidemiology Board. In 2011 Medical University of South Carolina awarded him an honorary doctorate. From 2014 to 2017, he taught epidemiology at UNC.

Known for his deep laugh and gentle and engaging smile inviting connection, he enjoyed asking and answering hard questions about beliefs and actions. Each New Year’s Eve, he held Watch Night at the meeting to commemorate the Emancipation Proclamation.

Bill was preceded in death by his parents and his elder brother, Albert D. Jenkins Jr. He is survived by his wife, Diane L. Rowley; a daughter, Danielle Rowley-Jenkins; a stepdaughter, Stacey Wiggins; a brother-in-law, Dean K. Rowley (Leatha); two nieces; a nephew; and many other loving relatives and treasured friends.

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