wjxt logo

‘One of a kind’: Jacksonville community honors life, legacy of Dr. Leon Haley Jr.

UF Health Jacksonville CEO died in personal watercraft accident in July

A community memorial service was hosted in Jacksonville Friday for Dr. Leon Haley Jr., the CEO UF Health
A community memorial service was hosted in Jacksonville Friday for Dr. Leon Haley Jr., the CEO UF Health

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A community memorial service was hosted in Jacksonville Friday for Dr. Leon Haley Jr., the CEO UF Health Jacksonville who died in a WaveRunner accident in South Florida in July.

Haley was laid to rest in his hometown of Pittsburgh in July.

He was widely celebrated for his leadership in the medical community and beyond.

In 2017, Haley moved to Jacksonville and became the dean of the University of Florida College of Medicine.

A year later, he was chosen as the UF Health Jacksonville’s first Black CEO.

During a moving virtual community memorial service Friday, he was remembered as a man who may have been small in stature, but who’s reach covered an entire community

“Dr. Haley connected us to one another and connected communities to each other through shared principles of common human decency and inclusion,” said Dr. David Nelson, president of UF Health. “But bridges do more than connect, they allow us to reach new places, chart new courses and realize new destinies. They forge a road where a road once seemed impossible. That sense of constant perpetual motion forward, coupled with a keen unmatched sense of compassion made Dr. Haley one of a kind.”

The day before Haley’s tragic accident, he was on the surgical floor at UF Health Jacksonville, administering COVID vaccines in what proved to be his last day at the hospital.

He is remembered as an inspiration. A man who went above and beyond.

“I just think God wanted him up in heaven sooner than we wanted him,” said former Mayor John Delaney, who served on the Civic Council with Haley. “They don’t need a hospital up there, but they may need somebody to start a fire. I really miss Leon, the community misses him. Godspeed.”

There was a recurring theme at the virtual memorial, Haley’s words reverberate in the halls of UF Heath every day, and he is still with them and will always live on in their hearts.


About the Author:

This Emmy Award-winning television, radio and newspaper journalist has anchored The Morning Show for 18 years.