Dr. James H. Steele

April 3, 1913November 10, 2013
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Dr. James H. Steele, of Houston, died peacefully at 100 years of age the morning of the 10th of November 2013, at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Steele was born in Chicago to James Hahn Steele and Lydia Nordquist on the 3rd of April 1913. He graduated from Lakeview High School in Chicago in 1937, and he then received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Michigan State University in 1941 and a Master’s of Public Health from Harvard University in 1942.

Dr. Steele began his career at the Michigan State Department of Agriculture in 1938 where he worked in testing of vaccines and Brucellosis. He then moved on to become Sanitarian for the U.S. Public Health Service in the Chicago Regional Office. From there, he became a scientist with the Planned Veterinary Public Health Program in Washington, D.C. where he was the consultant to the Surgeon General and establishment of Veterinary Programs in WHO and FAO in the U.N. For his work in Washington, he became the Chief of the Veterinary Public Health Division with the Communicable Disease Center in Atlanta, Georgia (which later became the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) in 1947. This was the first establishment for any type of veterinary public health in any national government. Shortly after this appointment, Dr. Steele became the Chief Veterinary Officer and advisor to the Surgeon General on all affairs involving veterinary medicine and veterinary public health. In 1968, Dr. Steele then became the first Assistant Surgeon General for Veterinary Affairs with the U.S. Public Health Service, where he remained until 1971, and later was appointed as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health & Human Services at the rank of Admiral (two stars). He went on to become a professor of Environmental Health Sciences at The University of Texas, School of Public Health from 1971 until 1983. Dr. Steele became Professor Emeritus in 1983 with the University of Texas and remained in that position until his passing. Along with all of his positions throughout the years, he was appointed to major consultations such as Pan American Health Organization from 1945 till the present and the World Health Organization from 1950 till the present. He was also a special consultant with United Nations Techinical Development Fund, World Bank, Inter-American Bank, and Agency for International Development from 1967 to 1983. He was a consultant as well to President’s Commission on Consumer Affairs from 1969 to 1989, as well as being a consultant to White House Office of Science and Health Planning for 2000 and after. He boldly introduced the principles of veterinary public health to the U.S. and over sixty countries around the globe. His outstanding medical achievements have saved countless human and animal lives and has helped the world to realize higher standards of living through a better understanding of the epidemiology of diseases shared by animals and man—the zoonoses.

He has received numerous awards over his illustrious career to include the Surgeon General’s Medallion in 2006, presented by SG Richard H. Carmona. In 2012, Dr. Steele received the OIE (World Animal Health Organization) Medal of Merit. His granddaughter, Jamie Steele, accepted the award in Paris on his behalf. Most recently in September, 2013, Dr. Steele received the World Veterinary Association John Gamgee award. His son David, accepted the award in Prague, Czech Republic. Only five other veterinarians have received this honor since the award’s inception in 1963. Other notable awards include the U.S. Military Forces Service and Victory Medals (1945), Carlos Findlay Medal, Cuba (1952), Michigan State University Veterinary Medicine Award (1960), U.S. Public Health Service Meritorious Service Medal (1963), Distinguished Service Plaque, U.S. Public Health (1971), Fellow, American College of Epidemiology (1981), Honorary Award of the Surgeon General (1983), James Law Lecture Award, New York Veterinary College (1983), National Academy of Practitioners (1986), University of Texas, School of Public Health, 50 Years in Public Health (1988), Presidential Award, Pan American Veterinary Congress (1988), Presidential Award, American College of Veterinary Preventative Medicine (1994), U.S. Surgeon General’s Medallion (2005), Special Recognition Award, American College of Epidemiology (2009). These awards and honors are just some of his many that he earned throughout his amazing career. He is the author of hundreds of scientific articles and book chapters and is considered by many in the scientific community as the “Father of Veterinary Public Health.” He edited the world’s first comprehensive set of medical textbooks on zoonotic diseases as well.

Dr. Steele was also a part of many professional associations such as the American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists, American Veterinary Epidemiology Society , American Veterinary Medical Association, Georgia Academy of Science, Georgia Veterinary Medical Association, Harvard School of Public Health Alumni Association, Infectious Disease Society, New York Academy of Science, Texas Public Health Association, Texas Veterinary Medical Association, United Nations Association of America, and many others.

Outside of his professional life, Dr. Steele had a great interest in many things. He would often discuss politics or current events with friends and family and loved to enjoy the symphony, ballet, opera, and the arts. But he was most fond of college athletics and sports like football, basketball, baseball, and tennis.

Throughout the years, he has been a brilliant veterinary leader and supporter of the philosophy of One Health, aspiring to improved quality of life for people and animals around the world. His social philosophy to thousands of students and colleagues from all over the world was “I believe firmly throughout my career that I should share my knowledge and expertise with my fellow man. Those of us who are fortunate to be endowed with intellectual advantages have an even greater responsibility to share. Carry on!” Dr. Steele is survived by his wife, Brigitte Maria Steele; sons, Michael J. Steele Fields and wife Margaret Underwood Steele, James H. Steele, Jr., and wife Nancy Dalton Steele, and David A.J. Steele; granddaughters, KathrynAnn Hunter Steele Fields, Jamie Dalton Steele, Ashley Steele Laney and husband Eric Laney; grandson, Taylor Christian Steele; and nephew, John Axel Steele, Jr.. Dr. Steele was predeceased by his parents, James Hahn Steele and Lydia Nordquist; brother, John Axel Steele, Sr.; and his first wife, Aina Oberg Steele.

A memorial service is to be conducted at eleven o’clock in the morning on Friday, the 15th of November, in the Jasek Chapel of Geo. H. Lewis & Sons, 1010 Bering Drive in Houston, where the Rev. Dr. David F. Jones, Pastor, Woodlands Community Presbyterian Church, is to officiate. Immediately following, all are invited to greet the family during a reception to be held in the adjacent grand foyer.

In Atlanta, a memorial service is to be conducted at half-past ten o’clock in the morning on Wednesday, the 27th of November, in the Mikell Chapel of The Cathedral of St. Philip, 2744 Peachtree Road Northwest in Atlanta, Georgia, where the Rev. Todd Smelser, Canon Associate for Pastoral Care, is to officiate.

The interment service is to follow, via an escorted cortege, to Arlington Memorial Park in Sandy Springs, Georgia. Immediately following, all are invited to greet the family during a reception at a venue to be announced at the service.

In lieu of customary remembrances, memorial contributions may be directed to the James H. Steele Professorship or to the James H. Steele Lecture Series, UT Health, Office of Development, P.O. Box 301413, Dallas, TX, 75303; or to the American Veterinary Epidemiology Society (AVES), P.O. Box 11093, Lexington, KY, 40512.


  • Memorial Service in Houston Friday, November 15, 2013
  • Memorial Service in Atlanta Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Dr. James H. Steele

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Cathy from the Swedish Club of Houston

December 6, 2013

I enjoyed sitting at Dr. Steele's table and visiting with him when he attended Swedish Club functions up until just a year or so ago, if I recall correctly. Such great accomplishments and a long life well lived! His presence will be missed by many. My sympathy and condolences go out to his friends and family for their loss.

November 27, 2013

We are very sorry for your loss.
God Bless You,
Doug, Linda, and Jim Wagner

November 27, 2013

We will see you this morning at St Phillips.
Nancy and Dick Rank

Rev. 21:3, 4 ~ Kim

November 21, 2013

My heart goes out to you at this time and in the days ahead.


November 18, 2013

May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.

Greg Dufour

November 17, 2013

My thoughts and prayers are with you and the family. I knew Dr. Steele while in graduate school at the UT School of Public Health. He was my advisor. He inspired me to pursue a career in public health after I completed my studies. To this day, 30 years later, I continue in public health serving the citzens of Houston.

Americo Nonini

November 14, 2013

My deepest condolences.

JoAnne Pegler

November 14, 2013

I worked for Dr. Steele as a grad student at UTSPH. His stories of his work in Africa inspired and delighted me, time and again.

And now here I sit in a CDC office in Africa,working with the Kenyan Medical Research Institute - a place he would have loved! Dr. Steele was a great pioneer in tropical medicine and was a great inspiration to me, as I took my first steps in Public Health. I will light a candle for him here in Africa - in Kisumu, Kenya -- on the shores of Lake Victoria.

Bonnie Shearer

November 14, 2013

Brigetta, I am so sorry for your loss and I know how much you loved and cared for Jim. He had a remarkable life and I will keep you and your family in my prayers. I am sorry I have a prior commitment or would attend the Memorial Service on Friday.

Jean-Francois Tournier

November 12, 2013

I was so sorry to hear of your loss. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help at this time.