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Leroy E. Burney papers

Call Number: MS 842

Scope and Contents

The Burney Papers consist of twelve linear feet of office files from his service with the Milbank Memorial Fund, other professional files, reprints, speech texts and a few biographical files. The papers date primarily from 1970 to 1976 but include a few materials from 1936 forward. They are organized in three series: PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES, WRITINGS, and BIOGRAPHICAL FILES.

The bulk of the PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES series dates from the 1970s. The series is organized in three sections: Milbank Memorial Fund, Other Activities and Reference. The first section consists of a limited number of personal office files which Burney retained following his retirement from the fund, divided between General Files and Program Records. The General Files are arranged alphabetically and consist of Burney's outgoing correspondence and letters, announcements, mimeographed memoranda, reports, and speech texts which he received from associates in medicine and public health, Milbank colleagues, and professional organizations. Much of the correspondence is routine, although the files for Florence Kavaler, Cecil G. Sheps, and David Willis contain discussions and information on the fund's Commission for the Study of Higher Education for Public Health. The exchanges with Lester Breslow concern specific public health education programs. An uncharacteristically lengthy letter to Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Elliot L. Richardson presents detailed defense of the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

The Program Records in the Milbank Memorial Fund section are arranged chronologically by topic and include general administrative papers (e.g., correspondence, minutes, budget summaries, reports), and files for three fund programs: the African Medical Education Program, the Commission for the Study of Higher Education for Public Health, and the Human Resources Development project. Much of the material in Program Records is fragmented and concerns routine administrative and operational matters, but the Commission for the Study of Higher Education files provide extensive documentation of its organization and activities.

The Other Activities section of Series I is arranged alphabetically by organization and contains files from Burney's participation in several committees and commissions. The section also contains a few financial and administrative records and some correspondence from his service as health commissioner and secretary of the Indiana State Board of Health and two folders, consisting primarily of print material, from his tenure as vice president for health sciences in Temple University.

The bulk of the section consists of files for organizations in which Burney played an active role while he was with the Milbank Fund: the National Commission for the Study of Nursing and Nursing Education, the the National Council for International Health, the National Health Council, and the President's Committee on Health Education. Burney became president of the board of commissioners of the National Commission for the Study of Nursing Education in January 1971, and he served in both an advisory role and as a spokesman before state nursing groups. The papers (1971-1976) include correspondence, minutes, and reports, and the annual narrative report for October 1970 to September 1971, which summarizes the commission's organizations and objectives. The National Council for International Health subsection (1972-1976) reflects Burney's interest in international health issues and contains a complete run of agenda books for the period covered by the papers. Burney served as president (1968-1969) and as a member of the board of directors of the National Health Council, and the subsection (1968-1971) contains a relatively large amount of correspondence on administrative and operational matters.

The files of the President's Committee on Health Education, which was created by President Nixon in 1971, are of special interest; they reflect both national politics in the early 1970s and Burney's interest in health consumerism. The papers cover the extensive research conducted by the committee to develop a plan to raise the level of "health consumer citizenship" and the dissension which hindered the drafting of the final report. A memorandum from Victor Weingarten (1973 Jun 20) describes why the White House impounded the committees's printed report.

The Reference section is arranged chronologically and contains miscellaneous reprints, mostly from the late 1960s and the 1970s, on a variety of, general health-oriented topics.

Series II, WRITINGS, is arranged chronologically and spans the years 1937 to 1976. The series is extensive and is made up of reprints, speech texts, reports, and drafts of articles and other writings. The files occasionally include correspondence and reference material. The series contains bound volumes of Burney's speeches for the years 1954 to 1958.

Series III, BIOGRAPHICAL FILES, is arranged chronologically and consists of eight folders of biographical sketches, awards, photographs, newsclippings and related material.

The Burney Papers were donated to the Department of Manuscripts and Archives by Dr. Burney in 1978. The papers are part of the Contemporary Medical Care and Health Policy Collection, which also includes the Milbank Memorial Fund Records (Ms. Group 845).


  • 1931-1978


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright for unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by Leroy E. Burney has been transferred to Yale University. These materials may be used for non-commercial purposes without seeking permission from Yale University as the copyright holder. For other uses of these materials, please contact

Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Leroy Burney, 1978.


Arranged in three series: I. Professional Activities. II. Writings. III. Biographical Files.


12 Linear Feet (29 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Chiefly office files from Burney's tenure as vice-president and executive director of the Milbank Memorial Fund, 1970-1977. (The fund is an organization dedicated to studying and promoting the effective delivery of health services.) Included in the papers are correspondence, memoranda, minutes of meetings, budget summaries, reports and the records for three programs supported by the Fund: the African Medical Education Program, the Commission for the Study of Higher Education for Public Health, and the Human Resources Development Project. Burney's activities in various organizations and commissions devoted to health care are documented in correspondence and files on these groups. Of particular interest are the files for the controversial President's Committee on Health Education, created by President Nixon in 1971. Burney's writings include texts of speeches, reports, drafts of articles, and offprints (1937-1976). Significant corrspondents in the papers are Florence Kavaler, Cecil G. Sheps, David Willis, Lester Breslow and Elliot L. Richardson. There is also a small amount of biographical material including photographs, family correspondence, biographical sketches, clippings and awards. These papers form part of the Contemporary Medical Care and Health Policy Collection.

Biographical / Historical

Leroy E. Burney had a dinstinguished career in public health administration. Among other positions, he has served as Surgeon General of the United States Public Health Service (1956-1961) and President of the Milbank Memorial Fund (1974-1977). Born in Burney, Indiana, he was educated at Butler University (1924-1926), the University of Indiana (B.S. 1928; M.D., 1930) and Johns Hopkins University (M.P.H., 1932). Burney was commissioned in the Regular Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service in 1932, and for the next thirty years he served in a variety of assignments. From 1945 to 1954 he held the position of health commissioner and secretary of the Indiana State Board of Health, on detail from the Public Health Service. He was appointed Assistant Surgeon General in 1954 and Surgeon General in 1956.

During Burney's term as Surgeon General, the Public Health Service initiated and expanded programs in environmental health and applied research, including studies of the relationship between cancer and cigarette smoking and new measures for the prevention of poliomyelitis. Believing strongly in the efficacy of public education, Burney was one of the first officials to warn the nation that "excessive cigarette smoking is a causative factor in lung cancer." He also convened the first national conference on air and water pollution. Burney's other areas of activity as Surgeon General included expansion of international health programs and efforts at administrative reorganization. After leaving the Public Health Service in 1961, he served as the first vice president of health sciences at Temple University, until his appointment as vice president and executive director of the Milbank Memorial Fund in September 1970.

Since its founding in 1905 the Milbank Memorial Fund had concentrated on successive, specific issues in endeavoring to improve and reform the delivery of health service. Following Burney's appointment as vice president and executive director in September 1970 and as president in January 1971, the fund reoriented its program to focus on the health services consumer and especially on the acquisition and application of knowledge about more effective utilization of health services. Burney also established a Commission for the Study of Higher Education for Public Health to explore needs in the field. Burney retired from the Milbank Fund in December 1977.

In addition to his professional appointments, Burney had been active in a variety of public health, international health and civic organizations and has served on a number of national commissions and committees. His work with the World Health Assembly (president, 1957) was especially significance.

Guide to the Leroy E. Burney Papers
Under Revision
compiled by R. Joseph Anderson, Nancy Robertson, and Alan Hoffman
September 1981
Description rules
Finding Aid Created In Accordance With Manuscripts And Archives Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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