Edgar Jackson Kenton III, 78, who rose from humble beginnings to become a neurologist for the Air Force and later the co-chief of neurology at a major Pennsylvania medical center, died April 21 of respiratory failure at his home in Danville, Pa.
Born in Philadelphia but raised in Camden, he was the eldest child of Edgar Jackson Kenton Jr. and Jessie Elizabeth Jones Kenton. He graduated from Camden High School in 1957.
Dr. Kenton earned a bachelor’s degree in premedicine from Rutgers University in 1961 and a medical degree from Cornell University’s Weill Medical College in 1965.
He completed an internship in 1966 and a residency in 1967 at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. He served a fellowship in neurology at Philadelphia General Hospital in 1970. His specialties were neurology and vascular neurology, especially the study of stroke.
After finishing his training, Dr. Kenton enlisted in the Air Force, where he served for two years as the chief of neurology at the Regional Hospital on March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County, Calif., and as a consultant in neurology for medical facilities on Air Force bases throughout the Southwest. He was honorably discharged in 1972 with the rank of major.
Lorie Cero, his longtime administrative assistant, said his professional trajectory was not without its challenges, but he worked hard and remained undaunted.
“He studied in the 1960s, at a tough time for being an African American,” Cero said. “But he never held a grudge about anything. He just moved on. Even up to the end of his life, he always had a goal.”
Dr. Kenton served at various times as a professor of neurology at Temple University, a clinical professor of neurology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, and an assistant professor of neurology at Emory University in Atlanta. While on the faculty at Morehouse School of Medicine, also in Atlanta, he directed the Stroke Prevention Intervention Research Program.
“He loved helping people and he loved to teach,” Cero said. “He was well-known in the neurology field here and really throughout the world. He really loved to travel and share his experience with people. But he was so humble about himself. Who would ever know that he was this renowned neurologist?”
In 2012, he took a job as co-chair of neurology and co-director of the neuroscience center at Geisinger Health System in Danville, Montour County. He directed the stroke program and gave speeches on that subject before retiring in 2016.
He was very concerned about burnout among vascular neurologists, and for the last 18 months directed a study that was published in the Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases. The research report determined that onerous on-call requirements was one reason for the burnout problem among the specialists studied.
In retirement, Dr. Kenton volunteered as the public voice of the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association. He served on committees of the American Academy of Neurology and the American Brain Foundation until just before his death.
Dr. Kenton was married and divorced twice, first to Sandra Kenton and then to Geraldine Kenton, known as Mickey. He had a daughter, Adrienne and a son, Brian, with Sandra Kenton.
Kittyann Gilpin, his sister, said Dr. Kenton was dedicated to his family: “When he traveled, he took his mother with him on vacations. She didn’t want for anything. He was a devoted brother. If we had a medical problem, he would always be there for us. I thank God for him. I will miss him dearly.”
In addition to his son, daughter and former wives, he is survived by three grandchildren; a sister; a brother; nieces and nephews; and his assistant, Cero.
A memorial service will be from 1:30 to 4 p.m. Friday, July 27, at the Union League of Philadelphia, 102 S. Broad St. Interment is private.
Donations may be made to the Edgar J. Kenton III, M.D. Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 15, Danville, Pa. 17821. The foundation benefits minorities and underprivileged students seeking higher education.