Public health leader, former Chattanooga mayoral candidate Howard Roddy dies

Staff photo/ Howard Roddy discusses health department funding issues during a meeting at City Hall in downtown Chattanooga on May 13, 2011.

Howard Roddy, a former vice president at CHI Memorial Hospital and longtime administrator of the Hamilton County Health Department, died Sunday at 72.

After earning a master's degree in environmental health administration from East Tennessee State University, Roddy served in various capacities for the county health department, including stints at the Alton Park Community Health Center, before being named administrator in 1981, according to a 1998 article in the Times Free Press.

Roddy, a Chattanooga native, was an advocate for improving health care access and an inspiration to many, winning 42.2% of the vote in the 1997 Chattanooga mayoral race - making him the strongest Black contender for mayor in the city's history.

Roddy served as health department administrator for 17 years before leaving in July 1998 to become a vice president for CHI Memorial's Healthy Community Initiative.

"The definition of a healthy community has expanded quite a lot. Back then, when you thought of health, you thought of diseases and reducing infant mortality, reducing smoking," Roddy said at the time. "But now, a healthy community has expanded well beyond that to include quality housing, a good education system, recreational opportunities, access to quality health care."

Rae Bond, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society CEO, said she worked alongside Roddy on numerous health-related projects and remembers him as "a tireless advocate for community health and improving access to care for those who are uninsured and underinsured," both publicly and behind the scenes.

"He was one of those faithful servant leaders who wanted to get things done and didn't care if he personally got credit. He worked hard to bring people together around issues," Bond said by phone. "He always had a positive outlook on life and was just an extraordinary human being."

In addition to his roles at the health department and hospital, Bond said Roddy was an avid volunteer, serving as former chairman of the Regional Health Council and on many boards, including the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, First Things First, the University of Chattanooga Foundation, the YMCA of Metropolitan Chattanooga and the Tennessee Board of Regents.

Roddy played a key role in helping start and continue Hamilton County Project Access - a local charity network of doctors, hospitals, community clinics and other partners formed in 2004 to provide health care services to low-income, uninsured Hamilton County residents. The program has coordinated nearly $200 million in donated health care to more than 21,616 patients with no other affordable access to care, according to the Project Access website.

"That speaks to his heart, which was that everybody would have access to care and that the people who fell through the cracks wouldn't - that there'd be something to help those who are most in need," Bond said.

Services for Roddy will take place at 1 p.m. on April 16 at Phillips Temple CME Church, 1321 N. Moore Road.

Contact Elizabeth Fite at efite@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673. Follow her on Twitter @ecfite.