Dr. Joseph E. Queen

Internist who was medical director of Blue Cross and Blue Shield and personal physician to Vice President Agnew

March 11, 2010|By Jacques Kelly

Dr. Joseph Emmett Queen, a retired internist who was former medical director of Blue Cross and Blue Shield, died of pneumonia Sunday at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. The Mercy Ridge resident was 93.

Born in Baltimore, he recalled his childhood in an autobiographical sketch. He grew up with silent movies at the Forest Theater near his Forest Park home. He carried Prohibition home-brew beer for his parents, bought a used 1927 Chevrolet for $25 in 1934 and sold it three years later to a scrap dealer for $4. He drove the car, which had a rumble seat, to the Chicago World's Fair. He also took motor trips with Spiro T. Agnew, a Forest Park neighbor and tennis partner who became Maryland's governor and the vice president under President Richard M. Nixon.

As a young man, Dr. Queen parked cars at the old Miller Brothers Restaurant, where he recalled FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover being a frequent patron who declined to allow him to park his vehicle. He also worked at the old O'Neill's department store for $15 a week.

While working downtown, he met film stars Jean Harlow and Loretta Young backstage at the Century Theater, which was near the department store and the restaurant.

Dr. Queen was a 1935 graduate of Loyola High School, where he was captain of the school's ice hockey team. He played the sport at the old Carlin's Park and Sports Centre on North Avenue. He earned a degree at what was then Loyola College and was a 1943 graduate of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

"The first year of medical school was the worst year of my entire life," he said in his memoir. "The teachers were of the old school and used scare tactics. They failed 12-14 students out of 98."

From 1945 to 1947, he was a captain in the Army's Medical Corps.

After his military service, Dr. Queen, who specialized in internal medicine, worked on the medical staffs of Mercy Medical Center, Bon Secours Hospital, University of Maryland Medical Center and Johns Hopkins Hospital.

In 1970, he gave up his private practice to become Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland's medical director. He retired in 1983.

From 1958 to 1982, he spent Wednesday and Saturday mornings as a part-time Baltimore Fire Department physician, working in its medical dispensary and responding to major fires. He served for several days during the 1968 riots.

In 1960, he was asked by the Archdiocese of Baltimore to investigate a cure of a child, Ann O'Neill, who was suffering from leukemia. He visited Tufts University Hospital and conferred with other physicians there. The cure was attributed to the intervention of Elizabeth Ann Seton, who was later named a saint.

He continued his friendship with his old tennis partner, Spiro Agnew, and later became his personal physician. In the fall of 1968, after Mr. Nixon had selected Mr. Agnew as his running mate, Dr. Queen took a two-month leave of absence and joined him on his campaign. He traveled 80,000 miles before Mr. Agnew and Mr. Nixon were elected.

Dr. Queen was included in official receptions, including a dinner on a yacht with Ronald and Nancy Reagan in 1968 and at a White House dinner, where he met President Nixon. Dr. Queen flew on Air Force II to Cape Canaveral for Apollo 11's lunar landing in July 1969. He was also present at the launches of Apollo 13 and Apollo 17.

He also recalled playing doubles tennis in Washington with Mr. Agnew and later President George H.W. Bush.

When Dr. Queen's racket broke, President Bush later presented him with a Wilson T-2000 tennis racket.

Dr. Queen enjoyed seafood and oysters. He and a friend, Bill Flynn, visited seafood restaurants on Tuesdays.

"Between the two of us, we knew every back road in the area, and he knew everyone in town," Mr. Flynn said.

A Mass will be held at 10 a.m. today at Stella Maris Chapel, 2300 Dulaney Valley Road, Timonium.

He is survived by his wife of 62 years, the former Lillian Burns; two sons, Joseph E. Queen Jr. of Riva and William E. Queen of Ellicott City; two daughters, Patricia Samour of Boston and Carol Wier of Cockeysville; and four grandchildren.

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