Born in Chicago on September 5, 1923, Quentin Young joined the Young Communist League as a teenager in the late 1930s. In 1938 he was elected to the national executive committee of the American Student Union (ASU), an organization established by a merger between the Communist Party-sponsored National Student League and its Socialist Party counterpart, the Student League for Industrial Democracy.
After attending Northwestern University Medical School from 1944-47, Young fulfilled his internship and residency requirements at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. He went on to become a Clinical Professor of Preventive Medicine and Community Health at the University of Illinois Medical Center, and Senior Attending Physician at Michael Reese Hospital. During the years and decades that followed, Young remained closely associated with the Communist Party. In 1962 he served on the Hyde Park Community Peace Centre’s advisory council, along with socialists Sidney Lens and Timuel Black. Two years later Young founded the Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR), which initially aimed to secure medical care for civil-rights workers in the South, and later promoted “single-payer,” government-run healthcare. Through MCHR, Young in the ’60s helped establish neighborhood health clinics for the Black Panther Party and the Young Lords, a socialist organization of Puerto Rican nationalists. He also was Martin Luther King Jr.’s personal physician.
In the late 1960s Young was a sponsor of the the GI Civil Liberties Defense Committee, a Socialist Workers Party front group. In August 1968 his MCHR provided emergency medical care to injured protesters and rioters at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago (including the infamous Chicago Seven, who were charged by the government with inciting to riot). That October, Young was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee in a probe regarding his knowledge about the Convention riots. The Committee accused Young of belonging to the Bethune Club, an organization for communist doctors.
During the Sixties and Seventies, Young was active in the anti-war and civil-rights movements. In 1972, while the Vietnam War was still ongoing, he led a small delegation to Communist North Vietnam.
From 1970 until at least 1992, Young was affiliated with the Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights (CCDBR), which was founded in 1960 as a Communist Party USA (CPUSA) front group that sought to outlaw government surveillance of radical organizations. CCDBR later became heavily influenced by the Democratic Socialists of America and the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism.
In the late 1970s Young was associated with a Marxist organization known as the New American Movement, and in ’79 he was a founding member of the Citizens Party, which had close ties to the Institute for Policy Studies.
In 1980 Young founded the Health and Medicine Policy Research Group, to promote socialized medicine and “a society free of social inequities”; he served as the board chairman of that organization for the rest of his life.
In the early 1980s Young was a leading ally of Chicago Democratic Mayor Harold Washington, who appointed him as president of the Chicago Board of Health. Also during this period, Young served on the board of directors of the ACLU‘s Illinois branch.
In 1982 Young helped establish the Democratic Socialists of America, where he continued to be a prominent member until the end of his life. In 1983 he sat on the national advisory board of the All-Peoples Congress, a group heavily influenced by the Marxist-Leninist Workers World Party.
In 1987 Young and CPUSA member Peter Orris founded Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), an advocacy organization dedicated to the promotion of a single-payer healthcare system; Young spent some time as PNHP’s president.
In the fall of 1994, Young was listed in a New Party publication as an activist who was involved in “building” that pro-socialist entity. That same year, he was a signatory to a letter written by the International Peace for Cuba Appeal (IPCA), which opposed America’s economic embargo against Fidel Castro‘s island nation. (IPCA was affiliated with the International Action Center.)
In 1995 Young attended the now-famous meeting at the Chicago home of former Weather Underground terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn—where Barack Obama was first introduced to influential locals as the preferred successor to Illinois state senator Alice Palmer, a pro-Soviet radical who was planning to vacate her state senate seat. Young quickly became a friend and political ally of Obama, teaching the latter about the merits of single-payer healthcare. He also served as Obama’s personal physician for more than two decades.
In 1995-96 Young was a board-of-directors member of Illinois Public Action (IPA), a group created in 1975 by Robert Creamer. Dominated by socialists, IPA served as the Midwest Academy’s action arm, advocated legislation promoting public ownership of property, and called for the wholesale redistribution of “the fruits of production.”
In 1997 Young served on the Citizen Action of Illinois board of directors.
In 2005 Young sat on the advisory committee of the Chicago Area Friends of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which organized a history project chronicling SNCC’s activities from 1960-65.
In April 2008, Young retired from his private medical practice in Hyde Park, Chicago, which he ran in collaboration with fellow activist David Scheiner.
Shortly after what he called Barack Obama’s “remarkable and historic victory” in the presidential election of 2008, Young wrote in the CPUSA magazine Political Affairs: “The only effective cure for our health-care woes is to establish a single, publicly financed system, one that removes the inefficient, wasteful, for-profit private health insurance industry from the picture.”
In 2009 Young served as the national coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program and as a board-of-directors co-chair of Healthcare-Now!; both organizations advocate a single-payer national healthcare system.
Young died on March 7, 2016, in Berkeley, California.
For additional information on Quentin Young, click here.
Further Reading: “Quentin Young” (Keywiki.org, WeArePublicHealthProject.org, Legacy.com); “Obama’s Comrades Push Socialized Medicine” (by Trevor Loudon, AIM.org, 12-15-2009); “Quentin Young, Chicago Doctor and Social Activist, Dies at 92” (Washington Post, 3-8-2016); “Dr. Quentin D. Young, Public Health and Civil Rights Advocate, Dies at 92” (NY Times, 3-17-2016).