H. Jack Geiger, Doctor Who Fought Social Ills, Dies at 95
Pulling doctors out of the clinic into the political battle “was a really signaling event,” said Dr. Robert Gould, a San Francisco pathologist and president of the Socially Responsible Doctors chapter in the Bay Area.
In a 2012 email related to this obituary, Dr. Geiger said he was partly driven by outrage over injustice.
“I was angry,” he wrote, “when I saw terribly burned children in Iraq after the first Gulf War, interviewed victims of torture in the West Bank, or heard Newt Gingrich tell ghetto children how to be part-time caretakers.” clean toilets (in another country they called it Bantu Education). So anger does not go away, but is replaced by a determination to do something. “
Home was a stopover
Herman J. Geiger was born in Manhattan on November 11, 1925. (It was unclear what J. stood for, but he was mostly called Jack all his life.) His father Jacob, born in Vienna, was a doctor; His mother Virginia (Loewenstein) Geiger, who came from a central German village, was a microbiologist. Both Jewish parents emigrated to the United States as children. Mr. Geiger grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and her home was often a stopover for relatives who fled the Nazis.
“The last ones to show up were some cousins from my mother’s birthplace, Kirtorf,” said Dr. Geiger in the email. “When they got their visas for the US, the Nazi authorities were furious. The night before she left, the authorities ordered all neighbors to go out at dusk and stone their home with stones. The neighbors all dutifully gathered – and tossed bread instead. “
That story, said Dr. Geiger, taught him not to create stereotypes.
He skipped so many grades in the city’s public schools that he graduated from Townsend Harris High School (then in Manhattan, now in Queens) at age 14. Too young to start college, learned typing and shorthand and went on to work as a copy boy for The New York Times. He also started hanging out in jazz clubs and listening to Billie Holiday, Art Tatum and Fats Waller. His parents were often beside themselves, waiting for him and sometimes even calling the bars to ask if “Jackie” was there.
Jack soon ran away from home and showed up in Harlem’s Sugar Hill area on the doorstep of Canada Lee, a black actor he had seen and met on Broadway after talking backstage, suitcase in hand . Mr. Lee, himself a teenage runaway, let young Jack sleep on the couch after consulting his parents, and although Jack sometimes returned home, he spent most of the next year in Harlem.