Paul Popham, AIDS Activist

From Times Wire Services

Paul Graham Popham, a Vietnam veteran and former Wall Street banker who helped found a national organization for AIDS patients, has died of complications from AIDS. He was 45.

Popham, who died Thursday, was president from 1981 to 1985 of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, an educational, advisory and advocacy group for acquired immune deficiency syndrome patients. Popham also helped found and served as chairman of the AIDS Action Council, a lobbying group.

Popham, who was born in Emmett, Idaho, and graduated from Oregon’s Portland State College, was a first lieutenant in the 5th Air Cavalry in Vietnam. He was decorated with a Bronze Star for valor after his platoon served as a lure for North Vietnamese soldiers.

Popham worked for Irving Trust Co. from 1969 until 1980, leaving as a vice president when, he said in a 1985 interview with the Washington Post, “people were dying and nobody cared. Suddenly, silence was a luxury I couldn’t afford.”

He was one of half a dozen founders of the health group and remained active in it until his illness, diagnosed in 1985, became too severe, friends said.