Leila Denmark

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Leila Denmark
Leila Alice Daughtry

(1898-02-01)February 1, 1898
Died(2012-04-01)April 1, 2012
(aged 114 years, 60 days)
OccupationPediatrician, Medical Researcher
Spouse(s)John E. Denmark (m. 1928–1990) (his death)

Leila Alice Denmark (née Daughtry; February 1, 1898 – April 1, 2012)[1] was an American pediatrician in Atlanta, Georgia. She was the world's oldest practicing pediatrician until her retirement in May 2001 at the age of 103, after 73 years.[2] She was a supercentenarian, living to the age of 114 years, 60 days. On December 10, 2011, at age 113 years 312 days, she became one of the 100 oldest people ever. (This record has since been surpassed.) At her death she was the 5th-oldest verified living person in the world and the 3rd-oldest verified living person in the United States.

A pioneering female doctor, medical researcher, and an outspoken voice in the pediatric community, Denmark was one of the few supercentenarians in history to gain prominence in life for reasons other than longevity. She is credited as co-developer of the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine. She started treating children in 1928. By the time of her retirement, Denmark was treating grandchildren and great-grandchildren of her first patients.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Portal, Georgia, Leila Alice Daughtry was the third of 12 children of Elerbee and Alice Cornelia (Hendricks) Daughtry. Her paternal uncle was Missouri Congressman James Alexander Daugherty.[4] She was the older sister of Clyde Daughtry (1910–85), who is known for shooting the only known authentic color footage of the attack on Pearl Harbor.[5][6] She attended Tift College in Forsyth, Georgia, where she trained to be a teacher. She studied chemistry and physics at Mercer University in Macon. She decided to attend medical school when her fiancé John Eustace Denmark (1899–1990) was posted to Java, Dutch Indies, by the United States Department of State, as no wives were allowed to accompany their spouses to that post.

Daughtry was the only woman in the 1928 graduating class of the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, and the third woman ever to graduate from the school with a medical degree.[7]

John Eustace Denmark had returned from his overseas assignment and they married on June 11, 1928, soon after she received her medical diploma.[8] They had one child together, Mary, on November 19, 1930. Leila Denmark was a registered Democrat and a practicing Baptist.[8]

Medical career[edit]

Denmark accepted a residency at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, and moved to the Virginia-Highland neighborhood with her husband.[9] Denmark was the first physician on staff when Henrietta Egleston Hospital, a pediatric hospital, opened on the Emory University campus. She also developed a private practice, seeing patients in a clinic at her home.

Denmark devoted a substantial amount of her professional time to charity. By 1935, she was a listed staff member at the Presbyterian Church Baby Clinic in Atlanta, while serving at Grady and maintaining a private practice.[8] She conducted research from the 1930s, and especially from 1933 to 1944 in the diagnosis, treatment, and immunization of whooping cough, then frequently fatal to children. Denmark is credited as co-developer of the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine, with support from Eli Lilly and Company, and Emory University.[10][11] For this, she was awarded the Fisher Prize in 1935.

Denmark discussed her views on child-rearing in her book Every Child Should Have a Chance (1971).[12] She was among the first doctors to object to adults smoking cigarettes around children, and to pregnant women using drugs.[citation needed] She believed that drinking cow's milk is harmful. She also recommended that children and adults should eat fresh fruit rather than drinking fruit juices, and drink only water.[13] On March 9, 2000, the Georgia General Assembly honored Denmark in a resolution.

Later life[edit]

She wrote a second book, with Madia Bowman, titled Dr. Denmark Said It!: Advice for Mothers from America's Most Experienced Pediatrician written in 2002.[14] Denmark later retired in 2002 because her eyesight was getting too weak for more involved tasks, such as examining children's throats.

Denmark lived independently in her Cumming, Georgia home until age 106. She moved to Athens, Georgia to live with her only child, Mary (Denmark) Hutcherson. On February 1, 2008, Denmark celebrated her 110th birthday, becoming a supercentenarian. According to Hutcherson, Denmark's health deteriorated severely in the autumn of 2008 but later improved as she neared her 111th birthday. She died in 2012 at the age of 114 and 2 months.[15] She was one of the few supercentenarians notable for something other than their longevity. A new Forsyth County, Georgia high school constructed 2016-2018 is located near her former home and is named after Dr. Denmark.

Awards and honors[edit]

  • 1935, the Fisher Award for "outstanding research in diagnosis, treatment, and immunization of whooping cough for her work on the vaccine"
  • 1953, named Atlanta's Woman of the Year
  • 1970, Distinguished Service Citation from Tift College as a "devout humanitarian who has invested her life in pediatric services to all families without respect to economic status, race, or national origin…. Devoted Humanitarian, Doctor par excellence, Generous Benefactor."
  • 1980, Distinguished Alumni Award, Tift College
  • 1980, Community Service Award, sponsored by television station WXIA, Atlanta, Georgia
  • 1981, Book of Golden deeds Award, Buckhead Exchange Club, Atlanta
  • 1982, Citation, Citizens of Portal, Georgia, jointly with her husband, John Eustace Denmark, for Outstanding Achievement and Service
  • 1989, Shining Light Award, Atlanta Gas Light Company
  • 1998, Lifetime Achievement Award, Atlanta Business Chronicle
  • 2000, Georgia General Assembly passed a resolution honoring her
  • 2000, Heroes, Saints and Legends Award, Wesley Woods
  • 2000, Honorary doctorate, Emory University[7][16]
  • 2016, a new high school in Forsyth County, Georgia, to be opened in 2018, was named in her memory.[17]
  • 2019, named to the Georgia Women of Achievement hall of fame[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lee Shearer Leila Denmark, beloved doctor, dies at 114. OnlineAthens (2012-04-02)
  2. ^ UGA researchers wrapping up study of centenarians and their longevity Archived 2012-04-27 at the Wayback Machine, Athens Banner-Herald OnlineAthens (2006-12-27). Retrieved October 17, 2011.
  3. ^ "Dr. Leila Denmark".
  4. ^ "J. A. Daughtery Dies," The Washington Post (1920-02-02)
  5. ^ https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/5983466/clyde-daughtry
  6. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3e99lfmmDN0
  7. ^ a b "Changing the Face of Medicine | Dr. Leila Alice Daughtry Denmark". www.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  8. ^ a b c American Women; The Official Who's Who among the Women of the Nation. Los Angeles, Calif. hdl:2027/mdp.39015046813831.
  9. ^ Lola Carlisle, DR. LEILA DENMARK — 114 YEARS OF MEMORIES: Pediatrician To Virginia-Highland’s “Little Angels”, The Virginia-Highland Voice (online edition), 6 April 2012
  10. ^ "Leila Denmark", New Georgia Encyclopedia
  11. ^ Leila Daughtry-Denmark (1942). "Whooping cough vaccine". Am J Dis Child. 63 (3): 453–466. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1942.02010030023002.
  12. ^ Denmark, Leila Daughtry (1971). Every child should have a chance. New York: Vantage Press. OCLC 1390428.
  13. ^ "Dr. Leila Denmark: Turning 113" | Dr. Denmark Said It | Oldest Americans Archived 2011-02-24 at the Wayback Machine. Sparkplugpeople.com (2011-02-01). Retrieved on 2012-04-03.
  14. ^ Bowman, Madia L. (2001). Dr. Denmark Said It!: advice to mothers from America's most experienced pediatrician. ISBN 0-9703814-0-9.
  15. ^ Bulloch native Leila Denmark turns 111. Statesboroherald.com (2009-02-08). Retrieved on 2012-04-03.
  16. ^ "Leila Denmark (1898-2012)". New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  17. ^ Kim, Williamson. "Dr. Leila Denmark – New High School in Forsyth County dedicated to the long career of beloved pediatrician, mentor and educator". UpInCumming. Archived from the original on 23 November 2016. Retrieved 22 November 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  18. ^ "2019 Induction Ceremony". Georgia Women of Achievement. Archived from the original on May 22, 2019. Retrieved May 22, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

External links[edit]