Dr. William Alexander Darity Sr., 91, of Amherst, professor emeritus of public health and founding dean of the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Health Sciences, died November 29.
A native of North Carolina, he was a decades-long leader and pioneer in the fields of public health, international health inequities and the health status of marginalized populations. He was a leading advocate of tobacco control.
Born in 1924 in East Flat Rock, NC, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Shaw University and a master’s in public health from North Carolina Central University. In 1964 he became the first black recipient of a doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, taking only two years to complete his doctorate in public health.
Before pursuing his doctorate at Chapel Hill, Darity’s international experience included 10 years with the World Health Organization (WHO). During his tenure at WHO, he taught at the American University of Beirut’s School of Public Health in Lebanon and the University of Alexandria’s Higher Institute of Public Health in Egypt. He also served as a health consultant with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Arab Refugees and as a WHO Regional Advisor for 17 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, which included 11 Arab countries, as well as Israel, Cyprus, Iran, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Pakistan and West Pakistan (now Bangladesh) with an emphasis on malaria eradication.