‘Tremendous Presence’: Kaiser Permanente’s First Black CEO Dies Suddenly at 60

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A 60-year-old Black man who headed the major health care company Kaiser Permanente died unexpectedly over the weekend, Kaiser officials announced Sunday.

“It is with profound sadness that we announce that Bernard J. Tyson, Chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente, unexpectedly passed away early Sunday morning in his sleep,” the company said in its public statement.

Kaiser Permanente head dies
Bernard J. Tyson, chairman and chief executive officer of Kaiser Permanente, died in his sleep Sunday. (Photo by Kaiser Permanente)

Kaiser officials extended their “deepest sympathies” to Tyson’s family. He is reportedly survived by his wife, Denise Bradley-Tyson, and three sons, Bernard J. Tyson Jr., Alexander and Charles.

“An outstanding leader, visionary and champion for high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans, Bernard was a tireless advocate for Kaiser Permanente, our members and the communities we serve,” the company said. “Most importantly, Bernard was a devoted husband, father and friend.

“We all will miss his tremendous presence in our lives.”

Board member Edward Pei described Tyson as “an exceptional colleague, a passionate leader, and an honorable man.”

“We will greatly miss him,” Pei said.

Gregory Adams, executive vice president and group president, was appointed to serve as the company’s interim chairman and chief executive officer in Tyson’s absence.

“The board has full confidence in Greg Adams’ ability to lead Kaiser Permanente through this unexpected transition,” Pei said.

Tyson’s death triggered a flood of support for the man and his family on social media.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom released a statement on behalf of himself and his wife, Jennifer, Sunday.

“Bernard’s vision and influence made an impact at home and abroad, and he led with excellence on behalf of millions of Kaiser patients and thousands of employees,” Newsom said. “We will always remember how he made health care accessible for so many while paving the way for countless professionals of color to pursue leadership roles in health care and corporate America.

“Our thoughts are with Denise, the Tyson family, and all at Kaiser Permanente who were inspired by Bernard’s leadership and example.”

California Rep. Barbara Lee tweeted Sunday she is “heartbroken.”

“Bernard dedicated his life to making health care more accessible for our communities,” Lee said in the tweet. “My prayers and condolences are with his family and loved ones during this time.”

Magic Johnson also tweeted his condolences on behalf of himself and his wife, Cookie. “He was a visionary and championed for best quality and affordable healthcare, especially in underserved communities,” Magic tweeted. “Bernard spent over 30 years at Kaiser and as an African-American man, I was so proud when he was named CEO in 2013.” Magic also said Tyson was able to grow the member base and revenue of the company “exponentially.” He said he and his wife are praying for Tyson’s family.

“May God give you peace during this difficult time,” Magic said.

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