Centennial Alumni

Spurgeon Neel Jr.

Aviation Medicine Pioneer

UT Health Science Center ’42

Spurgeon Neel Jr.

Maj. Gen. Spurgeon Neel Jr., a 1942 graduate of the College of Medicine at the UT Health Science Center, was a pioneer in evacuating wounded via helicopter. His rapid, life-saving transport method continues saving civilians and soldiers.

Known as the father of Army aviation medicine, Neel was inducted in the Army Aviation Hall of Fame in 1976.

Neel commanded a medical company in Europe in World War II later served as a surgeon with the 82nd Airborne. He became interested in helicopters to evacuate wounded, a tested method though not widely used.

In 1951, he became the first U.S. Army graduate of the U.S. Air Force School of Aviation Medicine. In Korea, he commanded a medical group and established the prototype for aviation medical evacuation.

In 1954, he served as the Army’s first aviation medical officer, later establishing the aviation branch within the office of the U.S. Surgeon General and serving as its first chief.

During the Vietnam War, he served as a surgeon and senior medical adviser. He was deputy surgeon general of the Army in the late ’60s and was the first commanding general of what is now the U.S. Army Medical Command.

Upon retirement, he taught at the University of Texas Health Science Center and helped establish the Army Medical Department Museum. The Neel Aeromedical Science Center at Fort Rucker, Alabama, is dedicated in his honor.

A native of Memphis, Neel died in 2003 in San Antonio, Texas, at 83. He earned a Distinguished Service Medal, a Legion of Merit with four oak leaf clusters, a Bronze Star Medal with one oak leaf cluster and a Purple Heart.