2022 Regular Session
By: Senator(s) Blount, Kirby, Bryan, Branning, Frazier, Hopson, Horhn, Michel, Norwood, Simmons (13th), Sparks, Thomas
A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION PAYING TRIBUTE TO THE MISSISSIPPI PUBLIC HEALTH CAREER OF DR. ALTON COBB, RESPECTED VETERAN STATE HEALTH OFFICER AND FIRST EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE MISSISSIPPI MEDICAID COMMISSION AND AWARD WINNING ADVOCATE FOR MISSISSIPPI'S PUBLIC HEALTH SYSTEM, AND EXPRESSING THE CONDOLENCES OF THE LEGISLATURE TO HIS SURVIVING FAMILY.
WHEREAS, we join the public health community of the State of Mississippi in mourning the passing of Dr. Alton Cobb. He passed away on October 14, 2021. From his humble beginnings consisting of a dogtrot log cabin and one room schoolhouse to his rise in leading Mississippi's public health system and advocating for more affordable and accessible health care for all citizens of Mississippi; and
WHEREAS, Dr. Cobb - known to his family as Al - was born to Joseph Harrison and Winnie Ora Cobb in the Cameron community near Camden, Mississippi, on October 19, 1928. From that dirt road in Madison County, he went on to a career that filled his life with purpose and public service; and
WHEREAS, as a child, Dr. Cobb attended public schools and remained a strong proponent of public education his entire life. He started in a one-room schoolhouse in Camden and graduated from Camden High School in 1946. He attended Holmes Junior (Community) College, graduated from the University of Mississippi and then attended the Medical School Program at the University of Mississippi. He loved Ole Miss for the rest of his life and made it plain to his nine grandchildren that he would help with the cost of their tuition if, and only if, they went to the University of Mississippi; and
WHEREAS, Dr. Cobb attended Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore, Maryland. Impressively, he entered the top medical school backed by a recommendation written by Dr. Arthur Guyton, the author of what is perhaps the most widely read medical textbook in the world. At Hopkins, Dr. Cobb met a young Waterloo, Iowa, nursing student named Mary O'Connor. He earned his degree from Hopkins in 1954, and convinced Mary to marry him and move south. Dr. Cobb's internship at Charity Hospital in New Orleans was followed by two years of active service in the U.S. Army Medical Corps during the Korean War. Shortly thereafter, he received a Master of Public Health Degree from Tulane University in 1960. He retired as a full Colonel from the Mississippi National Guard following many years of service; and
WHEREAS, after a brief solo medical practice in the small town of Pickens, Mississippi, Dr. Cobb began a 35 year career in public health. He first served as a county health director for Sunflower County, and he soon became the director of Chronic Disease Services for the State Department of Health. Dr. Cobb was an active voice in conversations with Governor John Bell Williams about the necessity of bringing Medicaid to Mississippi. When that came to pass, Dr. Cobb became the first Executive Director of the Mississippi Medicaid Commission; and
WHEREAS, in 1973, he was appointed State Health Officer for the Mississippi Department of Health, a position he held until 1992. Assisted by dedicated public servants, Dr. Cobb led the reorganization of the agency and several major initiatives, including: implementing the nationally recognized Mississippi Women's, Infants' and Children's Program; a reduction in infant mortality and tuberculosis rates; compulsory school vaccinations; modernized public health statutes; stronger patient protection in nursing homes and licensure regulations for home health care; and a statewide emergency medical services system. After retiring from the Mississippi State Department of Health, he served almost a decade as clinical consultant for Information and Quality Healthcare; and
WHEREAS, Dr. Cobb received multiple honors and awards during his career, including Alumnus of the Year from Holmes Community College and the Tulane School of Public Health. For several years he served as an alternate delegate from Mississippi to the American Medical Association. He was awarded the prestigious Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service by the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He was recognized by the American Public Health Association as a recipient of an award of Merit; Public Administrator of the Year for Mississippi 1981; Blair Batson Award of Merit from the Mississippi Academy of Pediatrics and most recently the Humanitarian Award from the Mississippi Academy of Family Physicians; and
WHEREAS, in retirement, Dr Cobb invested in charitable causes and spent countless hours at the "old home place" near Camden, where he inspected his pine trees and welcomed families and friends for regular Sunday gatherings; and
WHEREAS, Dr. Cobb's parents Joe and Winnie Ora, and his older brother John Herbert, preceded him in death; and
WHEREAS, he is survived by his wife of 67 years, Mary O'Connor Cobb; children: Mary Alene Alford, Dr. Tommy Cobb and Susan Cobb. Also surviving are grandchildren: Timothy Alford, Leah Hendrix, John Paul Alford, Jenny Sneed, Lauren Steele, Cameron Cobb, Scott Jimenez, Sara Burns and Mary Grace Suggs and 18 (soon to be 19) great-grandchildren; and
WHEREAS, Mississippi has lost many valued pioneers in the healthcare field, and Dr. Alton Cobb is at the top of that list, and we cherish fondly the memory of this most public-spirited citizen of Mississippi whose enormous public health and civic energy is a wonderful example for all Mississippians. He will be sorely missed.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE SENATE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES CONCURRING THEREIN, That we do hereby pay tribute to the Mississippi public health career of Dr. Alton Cobb, respected veteran state health officer and first Executive Director of the Mississippi Medicaid Commission and award-winning advocate for Mississippi's public health system, and expressing the condolences of the Legislature to his surviving family.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That this resolution be presented to the surviving family of Dr. Alton Cobb and forwarded to the Governor, the State Board of Health, the Executive Director of the Division of Medicaid, the Mississippi Medical Association, and made available to the Capitol Press Corps.