By Rick Kogan
The Chicago Tribune, January 31, 2014
It seems impossible that the life and times and accomplishments of Dr. Quentin Young might be able to fit into fewer than 250 pages, but there it is, colorful and passionate, between the covers of “Everybody In, Nobody Out: Memoirs of a Rebel Without a Pause.”
As Young, in collaboration with Steve Fiffer, writes, “When you get to be my age, there’s no shortage of stories to tell about things you’ve done, people you’ve met, and places you’ve been. Whether those stories are interesting enough to fill a book is for you, the reader, to decide.”
Well, I have read and I have decided, and the answer is a resounding “Yes.”
Young was born in 1923 and raised on the South Side, where he still lives. He enrolled in the University of Chicago at 16, volunteered for the U.S. Army, went to war and served in the medical corps, came back, earned his medical degree at Northwestern University, went to work at Cook County Hospital, where he eventually rose to chairman of the Department of Medicine from 1972 to 1982. He spent more than 60 years in private practice in Hyde Park.
Though on one level this book is about health care and the decades Young has been an articulate and indefatigable advocate for a single-payer national health care system, Young’s passions and interests extend beyond his life’s work. He attended his first protest as a teenager in support of steelworkers’ efforts to unionize. He helped organize the Freedom Summers in Mississippi. Through the decades Young could be found front and center of so many good causes, social justice matters and civil rights issues.
For instance, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. brought his fight for open housing and an end to segregation in the public school system to Chicago in 1966, Young was there. After King was hit in the head with a rock during the horrific open-housing march in Marquette Park, Young tended that wound. “We stopped the blood loss and transported him to the hospital,” Young writes. “The event had the capacity to kill him. He was my medical responsibility. In that moment, I was his doctor.”
And he was the doctor for many others, including columnist Mike Royko, the Beatles when the band was making concert visits here, and his lifelong friend and fellow activist Studs Terkel. “I was fortunate to be kind of Zelig to a number of accomplished and well-known Chicagoans and outsiders,” Young writes.
Politicians pepper these pages: the powerful Daleys on the fifth floor of City Hall, neighbor/friend Harold Washington, legendary 5th Ward Alderman Leon Despres, but not Gov. Pat Quinn, who last year nominated Young to the board of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority. The current occupant of the White House? “I’ll get into my relationship with President Obama and my profound disappointment in Obamacare shortly,” he writes — and he does, very frankly.
This book is the story of a life well and courageously lived. It is an essential for any Chicago book collection. His recall is solid and his style (with Fiffer) compelling.
He is grateful for being able to mine the many newspaper stories that charted his life and career, and the recall of his family members (including his five grown children, two stepchildren and their families) and colleagues, “the thousands I have worked with.” He slyly tips his hat to “(a)nother organization (that) also kept an almost daily diary of my activities during the 1960s and 1970s, the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
Near the end of this fine, fine book, he writes, “As you’ve no doubt noticed in the preceding pages, my views and actions have also propelled me into sharp conflict with institutions and persons who would perpetuate injustice. That was true yesterday; it remains true today. My work is unfinished.”
Ever busy, Young might take a moment to be proud — of his work, his life, this book.
Rick Kogan is a Tribune senior writer and columnist.
“Everybody In, Nobody Out”
By Quentin Young, Copernicus Healthcare, 254 pages, $18.95