Beloved pediatrician and activist Charles Attwood dies at age 66

Greenville, South Carolina 9/10/98 -- Dr. Charles Raymond Attwood, an internationally known speaker, best-selling author and pioneer in the area of children’s nutrition, died Tuesday at his home here at the age of 66 from complications of a malignant brain tumor. With him at the time of his death were his wife and publicist, Judy B. Calmes Attwood, and two of his children.

A board certified pediatrician and Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Attwood was well known for his generosity and lent his support to a wide variety of efforts aimed at improving the health and welfare of children. As a consultant for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, in 1996 he helped organize and lead opposition to the Gerber Baby Food practice of diluting fruits and vegetables with water, sugar, and modified starch. Although initially resistant to changing the practice, Gerber’s market share dropped from 85% to 65% in the months following a national press conference in which Dr. Attwood and others criticized the company. Shortly thereafter Gerber discontinued this 40 year practice, changing their labels to reflect 100% fruit and 100% vegetables.

In 1995, Dr. Attwood’s Low-fat Prescription for Kids was published amidst much praise. In this book, Dr. Attwood detailed a four-step plan to gradually adopt his recommended low-fat, plant-based "prescription" -- mostly vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes, with very little or no meat or dairy products. The book cited very compelling evidence that such a diet is necessary for children to avoid the leading causes of premature death later as adults, namely heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, and diabetes.

One of the people deeply affected by this book was the late Dr. Benjamin Spock. Asked to review the book, Dr. Spock was so excited by it that he offered to instead write the Foreword. Dr. Spock later hired Dr. Attwood to work as a nutritional consultant for the last revision of his own classic bestseller, "Baby and Child Care," released in July of this year.

In 1995, Dr. Attwood took a leave from his busy office to promote his book and spread what he believed to be the critical message of healthy nutrition for children and adults. He left what was thought to be the largest pediatric practice in the U.S. -- bringing in over one million dollars a year -- and never looked back. Dr. Attwood traveled non-stop in the ensuing three and a half years until his death. His soft-spoken Southern charm and kind manner made him a natural for television and radio, and he appeared on hundreds of radio and television shows, provided interviews for scores of major newspapers and magazines, wrote extensively, and continued to lend his support to a variety of health efforts.

Dr. Attwood was born near New Edinburg, Arkansas. He received his Bachelor of Arts from Hendrix College in 1953, graduated from the University of Arkansas School of Medicine in 1958, and interned at Brook General Hospital in San Antonio, Texas. He served in the US Army as a pediatrician at Fort McClelland, Alabama, and completed his pediatric residence at Letterman General Hospital in San Francisco.

After his arm career, Dr. Attwood had a private practice in Millburry, California as well as practicing at the University of California Medical Center in Berkeley. He worked with Dr. Henry Bruin at U.C. Berkeley, specializing in infectious disease. In 1972, Dr. Attwood moved to Crowley, Louisiana, and opened a private practice.

While in Crowley, Dr. Attwood founded the Cajun Road Runners Club, actively promoting the health benefits of exercise. He was the owner of Finish Line Sports, and donated hundreds of running shoes to young runners. Dr. Attwood, an avid marathon runner, established events like the Rice Festival Marathon and the Cajun 10-Mile Race, which attracted runners from around the world, such as Olympic Gold Medalist marathoner Frank Shorter, as well as Olympics team members from Ireland, England and Canada.

During his 35 years of practice Dr. Attwood wrote hundreds of health articles in national and European publications, also serving as an award-winning writer and consultant for Medical Economics Magazine, the nation’s largest medical publication. Along with colleagues like Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. John McDougall and Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Attwood successfully petitioned the United States Department of Agriculture to include a statement in its Guidelines for Americans that a vegetarian diet promotes health. Dr. Attwood won the 1997 Telly Award as host of the award-winning video Moove Over Milk. His most recent scientific article, Low-Fat Diets for Children, Safety and Practicality, will appear in the American Journal of Cardiology later this year. Dr. Attwood’s audio series, The Gold Standard Diet; How to Live to be 100, was recently released nationally to bookstores.

In recent years, Dr. Attwood recognized the future power of the Internet, and established and helped build the most popular vegetarian website on the internet, VegSource.org. Through this site he reached hundreds of thousands of people each month, often answered private e-mail questions personally, and provided numerous essays with useful health information. Next month Hyperion Books will publish a new book by Dr. Attwood, A Vegetarian Doctor Speaks Out, some of which grew out of letters from people who contacted him through his website.

Dr. Attwood was selected as a faculty member of the American Academy of Nutrition, and was a repeated guest lecturer at Cornell University. In June of 1996, he was appointed to the Board of Advisers of EarthSave International. In September of 1997, he was selected as one of 20 world experts to the faculty of the Second National Conference on Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease, sponsored and developed by the Cleveland Clinic at the Disney Institute of Orlando, Florida. In December of 1998, he was scheduled to be keynote faculty speaker at the 12th Annual Asian Cardiology Congress in Manila, Philippines.

Dr. Attwood is also survived by his mother, Mrs. Raymond Attwood of Lafayette, Louisiana, his children, Paul Attwood of Atlanta, Georgia, Katheryn Attwood Gustofson of Austin, Texas, Mary Attwood Castille of Lafayette, and Laura Dupuis of Atlanta, step children Amy Vanderwuff and James Drayton Calmes IV of Charleston, as well as seven grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held Friday, September 11, at 1:00 pm at the Chapel of Christ Church Episcopal in Greenville with burial in Springwood Cemetery. Memorial services will be held later in Crowley and New York City. The family is at the Greenville home.