James A. Knight, MD (October 20, 1918 – July 17, 1998) was a psychiatrist, theologian, medical ethicist, and ordained Methodist minister. His principal contributions were in medical student development, the intersection of psychiatry and religion, ethical issues in medicine, and the understanding of conscience. Dr. Knight served Tulane for more than 10 years as Dean of Admissions, and as a scholar and professor of psychiatry and medical ethics. He developed the first course in medical ethics at Tulane. The classes accepted to the School of Medicine during Doctor Knight’s tenure as Dean of Admissions brought a new level of diversity to Tulane through the inclusion of increased numbers of women, minority students, and those whose academic histories were eclectic or unconventional. The Class of 1969 came to be known as “Knight’s Folly.” Members of this class successfully completed the project in raising funds to endow a chair at Tulane University School of Medicine in his name.
Dr. Knight was born in St. George, South Carolina, on October 20, 1918. He graduated from Wofford College and earned his MD at Vanderbilt University. He completed his post-graduate medical training at Tulane, where he completed a psychiatric residency and he was chief resident and at Grady Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, and at Duke University Hospital in Durham, North Carolina. Additionally, Knight completed a Master of Divinity Degree at Duke University and a Master of Public Health Degree at Tulane University. During World War II, he served as a U.S. Navy Chaplain on the USS Sanctuary, a Haven-class hospital ship. Dr. Knight earned a fellowship from the World Health Organization for study at the C.G. Jung Institute in Zürich, Switzerland, in 1961.
Dr. Knight held the Harkness Chair in Psychiatry and Religion at Union Theological Seminary in New York, and served as the Founding Director of the Program in Psychiatry and Religion there. After serving at Tulane, Dr. Knight was the first Dean of the newly formed Texas A&M University College of Medicine, a post he held for five years (1973 - 1978). He subsequently left university administrative posts to finish his career as a professor at Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans, and returned to the Texas A&M College of Medicine as professor from 1992 - 1997.
Knight's many awards included the Distinguished Alumni Award from Wofford College in 1971,and one for his leadership of the Society for Health and Human Values, the predecessor organization to the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities, for which he also served as President. He was a member of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion.