Dr. James L. Goddard dies at 86; FDA chief led overhaul in 1960s

Dr. James L. Goddard, who spent more than two stormy years in the late 1960s as head of the Food and Drug Administration, an agency he was charged with overhauling, has died. He was 86.

Goddard died Dec. 18 at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills following a brief illness, said his son, Bruce.

In early 1966, Goddard came to the FDA after spending four years in Atlanta as the well-regarded chief of what is now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

He approached the shake-up of the FDA with such zeal that his staff called him "Go-Go Goddard" as he reorganized the agency and made it clear that he intended to be a regulator, not a caretaker.

As the first medical doctor to serve as commissioner of the agency in 45 years, he assumed office at a time when critics considered the FDA "a bumbling bureaucracy" and "a prisoner of an industry more interested in its profits than its products," The Times reported in 1966.

Almost immediately, he told the powerful pharmaceutical industry that drug research was inadequate and would have to be improved. Drug recalls grew by nearly 75% during his first year as commissioner, the agency said.

Goddard undertook a sweeping investigation of the effectiveness of about 4,000 medicines, many of which had been widely available for years. He also cracked down on drug advertising and instituted "Dear Doctor" letters that required drug makers to contact doctors in writing to address false or misleading claims.

James Lee Goddard was born April 24, 1923, in Alliance, Ohio, the younger of two children of Frederick and Harriett Calhoun Goddard.

Goddard grew up in Warren, Ohio, and received his bachelor's degree in 1944 from Philadelphia's Temple University while serving in the Army during World War II.

When he was stationed at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, Goddard met Mildred Mae Miller, a nurse, while he was recovering from an attack by a patient in the psychiatric ward, his son said.

The couple married in 1945 and raised three children before divorcing in 1974.

After earning his medical degree at George Washington University in 1949, Goddard ran a private medical practice in Kalida, Ohio, before embarking on a career in public health in 1951. He went on to earn a master's in public health from Harvard University in 1955.

From 1956 to 1959, he oversaw the Public Health Service Accident Prevention Program in Washington and helped lead the push for seat belts in automobiles.

Over the next three years, he served as director of the medical program for what is now the Federal Aviation Administration.

When he was named chief of the CDC in 1962, Goddard was the youngest person at that time to hold the post, according to the FDA.

In announcing his appointment to head the FDA, President Lyndon B. Johnson said that Goddard had "earned wide recognition for his administrative skills and his scientific competence," according to a 1966 New York Times article.

Goddard left the FDA in 1968 to join a private data-processing firm. He later spent two years as a program advisor at the Ford Foundation in New Delhi and did consulting work until about seven years ago.

At a tennis tournament, he met Marjorie Geraldine Raitt, whom he married in 1976. They moved to Laguna Woods in 2001. She died in 2004.

As a father, he tried to encourage his children to read by repeatedly telling them he had read every book in the public library while growing up. He was extremely competitive, his son said, and he never just let his children win. "We had to earn it."

In addition to his son, Bruce of Franklin, N.Y., Goddard is survived by two daughters, Margaret Goddard of Salt Lake City and Tricia Mikle of Worthington, Minn.; his stepchildren, singer Bonnie Raitt of Los Angeles and David Raitt of Ukiah, Calif.; eight grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. His stepson Steven Raitt died in April.

Instead of flowers, the family suggests donating to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, www.aspca.org.


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