Rep. Paul G. Rogers, 87; Washington's 'Mr. Health'

Paul G. Rogers, who for 24 years was a Democratic representative from West Palm Beach, Fla., pushed environmental and health-care legislation.
Paul G. Rogers, who for 24 years was a Democratic representative from West Palm Beach, Fla., pushed environmental and health-care legislation. (Palm Beach Post File Photo Via Associated Press)
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By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Paul G. Rogers, 87, a retired U.S. congressman known as "Mr. Health" for his work on environmental and health-care legislation during 24 years as a Democratic representative from West Palm Beach, Fla., died Oct. 13 at Sibley Memorial Hospital. He had lung cancer.

Mr. Rogers chaired the House Subcommittee on Health and the Environment, was the main sponsor of the Clean Air Act of 1970 and mobilized federal research into a "war on cancer."

He also was the leader of legislation that established the National Institute of Aging and set standards for safe drinking water, noise control and emergency medical services.

He worked on legislation that made used cars adhere to federal safety requirements and examined the impact of X-rays from color television sets. He pushed the Food and Drug Administration to improve its inspections of food plants and medical devices.

He also passed a comprehensive drug abuse and prevention act as well as the Medicare-Medicaid Anti-Fraud and Abuse Amendments of 1977.

He was the chief sponsor in 1968 of Johnson administration-endorsed legislation to crack down on individual users of LSD, amphetamines and barbiturates, which for the first time made it a misdemeanor to possess the drugs for one's own use.

The bill passed, but another proposed drug ban didn't. Dieters and diabetics in 1977 inundated Mr. Rogers and other officials with protests as Congress considered a ban on the artificial sweetener saccharine when early animal studies connected it to increased incidences of cancer.

Mr. Rogers was an advocate of healthy habits and did not smoke, his friends said.

In a 1979 interview, the Palm Beach Post reported that he said, "I saw the potential for what could be done in the health care field, and it just was not being aggressively pursued. We were not looking ahead and planning."

That concern for planning led to his widely quoted statement, "Without research, there is no hope," now set in a marker on the National Institutes of Health campus.

Daniel A. Mica, who succeeded Mr. Rogers in his congressional seat and is now the president and chief executive of the Credit Union National Association, called him "a gracious gentleman's gentleman [who] walked the halls of Congress with the highest respect of both parties. . . . Washington and the medical community are rife with people who all called Paul Rogers their mentor."

Since leaving Congress in 1979, Mr. Rogers had been a partner in the Washington law firm Hogan & Hartson, where he started the firm's health law practice.

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