Dr. Lucius W. Leeper, 84, internist, SSA medical officer

October 06, 2006|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,sun reporter

Dr. Lucius W. Leeper, a retired internist and former Social Security Administration medical officer, died of respiratory failure Sept. 29 at Sinai Hospital. The longtime Northwest Baltimore resident was 84.

Mr. Leeper was born in Baltimore and raised in the city's Fairfield neighborhood, the son of a brickyard worker.

"Our mother died when we were young and our father raised us. He had a fifth-grade education and encouraged us to get an education. And since Lucius was the oldest, we just followed him," said his brother, Lemuel Leeper, a biochemist who lives in Summit, N.J.

Dr. Leeper was a 1940 graduate of Douglass High School and earned his bachelor's degree three years later from what is now Morgan State University. He served in the Army from 1943 to 1946.

He earned his medical degree in 1948 from Howard University Medical School and completed an internship and residency in internal medicine at the old Freedman's Hospital, now part of Howard University Hospital in Washington.

Dr. Leeper conducted research on the original latex-fixation test used to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis and completed a fellowship in cardiovascular research.

While serving as an Air Force captain and internist from 1952 to 1954, Dr. Leeper supervised a complicated move by air of a quadriplegic polio patient in an iron lung from an air base in Newfoundland to Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts. The iron lung was inoperable while the patient was being transported between plane and hospital, but was able to function during the flight.

"A move like this by air had never been done before, and was a challenge, and it was successful. That was so important to him," said his wife of 32 years, the former Shirley Jenkins, a retired Anne Arundel County public school educator.

Returning to Baltimore, Dr. Leeper established his medical practice on Poplar Grove Street, and later moved to an office on Garrison Boulevard, where he remained until retiring in 1992.

From 1956 until 1975, he was a clinical instructor in arthritis and rheumatism at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He was an attending physician at the old Provident Hospital from 1954 to 1968, and at the old Lutheran Hospital from 1956 to 1984.

Dr. Leeper was associated with Social Security in several capacities from 1966 until retiring as deputy medical director in 1980.

"Doc was both my friend and family doctor, and he was a good one," said J. Sidney Sheppard. "He was a gentle man and even-tempered, and if he was stressed, he never showed it."

"He was a quiet and unassuming man who had so many accomplishments, yet you wouldn't know that to look at him," said Melvin Smith, a longtime friend. "He was very compassionate and religious, and one of the few I've known who practiced and lived the word."

A Mason, Dr. Leeper was a longtime member of Joseph L.H. Smith Lodge No. 54, and Hiram Consistory No. 2. He was a past potentate of the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Noble Order of the Mystic Shrine Jerusalem Temple No. 4.

Dr. Leeper was an active member and former trustee of Gwynn Oak United Methodist Church.

He was a member of the Douglass High School Class of 1940 Club, the Zeus social club and a pinochle club.

"We met to play pinochle once a week on Tuesdays. We'd start at noon and play until midnight. When we were younger, we'd play beyond that," Mr. Sheppard said. "We never played for money, and only for bragging rights."

He added: "We played all day and told lies all day, and believe me, none of us were as good as we thought we were."

Dr. Leeper enjoyed fishing, and cooking for family and friends. He was known for his pepper steak.

Also surviving are a son, Frederick Leeper of Woodlawn; a daughter, Yvette Dixon of Eldersburg; two sisters, Letisha Kess of Glen Burnie and Lois Russell of Washington; a stepson, Randy Turner of Nottingham; a stepdaughter, Eileen Rich of Stevensville; and four grandchildren. Another daughter, Fern Henderson, died in 2001. His previous marriage, to the former Nola Simpson, ended in divorce.


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