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J. Willis Hurst papers

Identifier: Manuscript No. 002

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of the professional and personal papers of J. Willis Hurst from circa 1954-2004. The collection documents Dr. Hurst’s career and personal relationships, beginning with his service at the U. S. Naval Hospital in Bethesda, MD and continuing through his retirement from Emory University. The collection provides evidence of the many close relationships that Hurst formed with students, colleagues and patients, including the late Lyndon Baines Johnson, former President of the United States. The papers include correspondence (1951-2006); files related to writings (1965-2007); subject files; awards and biographical information (1954-2003); collected materials (1978-1999); files related to Lyndon Baines Johnson (1955-2007); and photographs.


  • 1951-2009, undated

Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Restrictions on Access

Unrestricted access.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.

Biographical Note

J. Willis Hurst, MD (1920-2011), cardiologist, professor of medicine, and writer. The only child of John and Verna Bell Hurst, John Willis Hurst was born in Cooper, Kentucky on October 21, 1920. When he was eleven months old, the family moved to Carroll County, Georgia where his father became principal of a small school. Hurst entered West Georgia College in Carrollton at age 16. After two years in the college, he transferred to the University of Georgia where he graduated with a B.Sc. in chemistry and zoology. He entered the Medical College of Georgia in 1941 and graduated first in his class in 1944.

In 1948, after internship and residency training in Augusta, Georgia and two years in the Army at Fitzsimmons General Hospital, Dr. Hurst became a cardiac fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital under Dr. Paul Dudley White. After completion of the fellowship, he first established a private practice in Atlanta, Georgia in 1949, then, in 1950, accepted an offer to join the faculty of Emory University. He was briefly recalled to military service in 1954 and assigned to the U. S. Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland where he was appointed Chief of Cardiology. When Lyndon Johnson, then majority leader of the Senate, suffered a heart attack July 2, 1955, Dr. Hurst became his cardiologist and remained in that role until Johnson’s death in 1973.

After his discharge from military service in 1955, Hurst returned to Emory where he resumed teaching and practicing consultative cardiology. In 1957, at the age of 36, he was named Chairman of the Department of Medicine at Emory, a position he held until 1986. He continued to teach after stepping down from that position. In 1991, Dr. Hurst was named as a consultant to the Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, at Emory and continued in this role until 2007.

Over the span of his career, Hurst edited over 60 books and authored over 350 scientific articles. Of special note are the books The Heart, which he created and edited for seven editions; Medicine for the Practicing Physician, which he created and edited for four editions; and The Quest for Excellence: the history of the Department of Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine, 1834-1986 which he authored in 1997.

Dr. Hurst passed away on October 1, 2011 at the age of 90. He was preceded in death by Nelie Hurst, his wife of 61 years. He is survived by three sons, John, Steve and Phil, and their extended families.


14.83 linear ft. (25 boxes + 4 oversize)


Contains the professional and personal papers of J. Willis Hurst from 1951-2009.

Arrangement Note

Organized into six series: (1) Correspondence, (2) Writings, (3) Subject files, (4) Awards and biographical information, (5) Lyndon Baines Johnson files, (6) Photographs, and (7) Other Materials.


Transfer from Emory University Department of Medicine.

Related Materials in Other Repositories

J. Willis Hurst Papers, Emory University Archives, Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.

Related Materials in This Repository

Atlanta Medical College Records, Southern Medical College Records, Atlanta College of Physicians and Surgeons Records, Atlanta School of Medicine Records, Atlanta Medical College Records, Wesley Memorial Hospital Records, Emory University School of Medicine Records, Emory University Hospital Records, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing Records.


Processed by Nancy Hall Watkins, 2011.

J. Willis Hurst Papers, 1951-2009, undated
Historical Collections, Woodruff Health Sciences Center Library, Emory University
Date encoded: February 20, 2014
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Woodruff Health Sciences Library Historical Collections Repository

1462 Clifton Road NE
Atlanta Georgia 30322 United States