By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
LETTER: A Tribute to Judge Arthur M. Kaplan

Dear editor,

The week of May 19th-25th commemorates National Emergency Medical Services Week. In 1974, President Gerald Ford signed Proclamation 4332, which designated a week dedicated to the improvement of prehospital emergency medical care throughout the United States. The third week of May is a time to celebrate the accomplishments and service of prehospital care providers and emergency medical technicians, as well as, focus on strategies for enhancing and improving prehospital emergency medical care and emergency medical service delivery. One of Newton County’s sons, Judge Arthur M. Kaplan, was a pioneer in the development of the modern emergency medical service in Georgia. Arthur Kaplan was born in Covington, GA on January 5th, 1925. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the United States Navy. During his naval career Kaplan completed specialized underwater demolitions training and became a “frogman”; a precursor to the modern day Navy SEAL. Kaplan was no stranger to danger. He served in the Pacific Theater during World War II. His team, Underwater Demolitions Team 7, frequently “cleared the beach” prior to the incursion of the Marines. During the Battle of Okinawa, Kaplan’s ship was struck several times by enemy shore batteries and several sailors were injured. Kaplan, utilizing first aid skills he had learned in the Boy Scouts, assisted the medical staff with providing care for the wounded. For his efforts, Kaplan was awarded the Naval Commendation for Meritorious Service. After returning home from the War, Kaplan attended college and earned a law degree. He was appointed as a municipal court judge for the City of Atlanta in 1973. Later, Kaplan would also serve as a Fulton County magistrate. Although his career centered around the law, Kaplan’s passion for medicine drove him to complete a course in advanced first aid. Soon after, Judge Kaplan realized there was a need for the expeditious provision of prehospital emergency care throughout the City of Atlanta and began responding to emergency medical calls in an effort to provide patient stabilization prior to the arrival of an ambulance. Judge Kaplan soon became one of the first certified emergency medical technicians in the State of Georgia. Kaplan would often monitor his two-way radio and respond to emergency calls throughout the night, assisting Grady Hospital ambulance crews, while presiding over the bench during the day. Many of Judge Kaplan’s exploits as a volunteer first responder are worthy of a Hollywood movie. On many occasions, Judge Kaplan responded to calls involving law enforcement officers injured in the line of duty. In 1975 Judge Kaplan responded to a call involving a DeKalb County police officer who had been shot. Arriving on the scene first, Kaplan made his way to the wounded officer without cover. As he approached the wounded officer, he encountered the assailant, who continued to fire his weapon at the officer and the Judge. Judge Kaplan, protecting the wounded officer, returned fire with his own pistol, striking the perpetrator’s gun and disabling it. The perpetrator brandished a second weapon and began firing at Kaplan with a shotgun as the Judge dragged the wounded officer to safety. As Judge Kaplan began providing medical care to the wounded officer, other law enforcement officers arrived on scene; a gunfight with the suspect ensued and the suspect was struck multiple times by a barrage of police gunfire. After assisting other rescuers with loading the wounded officer into an ambulance, Kaplan began caring for the wounded suspect. He was credited with playing a crucial role in the survival of both the wounded officer and the gunman. In 1983, Judge Kaplan responded to a police officer who had been shot in the face. As a barricaded gunman fired at Kaplan with a shotgun, the Judge made his way to the wounded officer and drug him to safety. He began providing medical care until the officer could be evacuated to an ambulance. In 1987, marshals summoned Judge Kaplan to the scene of a child lying on the sidewalk in front of the Fulton County Courthouse. The young girl was not breathing. Kaplan immediately performed mouth to mouth ventilations and successfully resuscitated the child. Kaplan was later quoted as saying, “One of the most beautiful things in the world is to see someone breathe again.” In addition to saving lives, Judge Kaplan also taught lifesaving skills to countless emergency medical technicians, nurses, and law enforcement officers, including agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Secret Service. In 2003, Judge Kaplan received the U.S. Secret Service Director’s Award for his role in training Secret Service agents in emergency medical care…a task he performed for 35 years for free. In 1986, Newsweek magazine honored Kaplan as one of America’s 100 Unsung Heroes. Judge Kaplan was also recognized for receiving the American Red Cross Certificate of Merit for Lifesaving more than anyone else in the Nation. In 2013, Atlanta Fire Rescue Station 28 was dedicated in Judge Kaplan’s honor for his tireless and compassionate service to the citizens of the City of Atlanta. As we mark this 50th annual National EMS Week and reflect on the selfless service of the emergency medical technicians and first responders who provide prehospital emergency medical care to our community, let us remember Covington native and Georgia EMS pioneer, Judge Arthur M. Kaplan; a true hero.

P. Miller of Covington