‘A man with a big heart’: tributes flow for Dr John Knight

Dr John Knight.

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Dr John Knight is being remembered as a kind, humble and wise man who cared greatly for others, as tributes flow following his death on Sunday, November 27, aged 94.

In his public persona, Dr Knight, known as Dr James Wright, was the “merry medic” who regularly appeared on daytime television in the 1970s and ’80s, and hosted The Good Health Show on a Sydney radio station. To his family, friends and colleagues, he was a warm-hearted man who made a significant contribution to society.

Pastor Tony Knight, director of resource development and children’s ministry for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Australia, described his uncle as a “larger-than-life character, full of laughter and good humour—a larrikin of the first order”.

“His outward joviality was matched by an equally big heart within, that motivated an almost countless number of community and philanthropic enterprises,” Pastor Knight said. “In my role as a former youth ministries director of the Australian Union, John frequently assisted by making appearances at events like the CHOSEN conferences for teen leaders. His engaging personality, wisdom and ability to connect with all ages endeared him to so many. He will be deeply missed.”

Aside from his TV and radio commitments, Dr Knight was also the author of a number of health books that were successfully shared by literature evangelists for more than 40 years.

Former Signs Publishing manager David Woolley worked very closely with Dr Knight on his books. “When John started his first manuscript he could not have imagined where his words would go,” Mr Woolley said. “He could not have imagined the hundreds of thousands of books that were published. Many countries of the world have benefited from his talent. His contribution has been great.

“On a personal note, some of my best memories of John were on an Alaskan holiday we enjoyed together with 50 other Australians. He would get us out of the bus and put us through an exercise routine—once a doctor, always a doctor! He really joined in and gave us some fun moments to remember.”

Dr Knight regularly appeared on the Record InFocus program.

For many years, Dr Knight also had a monthly column in Signs of the Times magazine and he regularly appeared on Adventist Media’s Record InFocus program.

Former Signs editor Lee Dunstan worked with Dr Knight for more than 20 years. “His monthly Medical Hotline column, which gave medical and health advice and news, would have been but a small part of his wide-ranging business and media activities, I assume, but was integral to the Signs’ outreach, providing a link to his Family Medical Care books and our Church’s literature evangelist ministry, which delivered them,” Mr Dunstan said. “We can thank him for many literature prospects/contacts who are now church members. He delivered!”

Record InFocus producer Kent Kingston, also a former Signs of the Times editor, said it was difficult to overestimate the impact Dr Knight has had on the Australian media landscape.

“His energetic on-camera persona was legendary—I was privileged to witness it at Adventist Media,” Mr Kingston said. “But what really humbles me about John is how he used the fruits of his success to benefit older people struggling to afford aged care through his Medi-Aid Centre Foundation. What a life. What a legacy.”

Conscious of the high costs of aged care, Dr Knight, together with his son, David, opened a number of not-for-profit aged care facilities in Sydney and Queensland with places set aside specifically for residents with limited financial capacity.

In 2017, Dr Knight was named New South Wales’ Senior Australian of the Year and he was awarded the Order of Australia (AM) in 1998 for his work in media and philanthropy.

Current Signs Publishing manager Andrew Irvine said Dr Knight’s work touched the lives of many people.

“For those who had the privilege to meet and work with Dr Knight, ‘the merry medic’ was an apt description of a humble man who was kind, affable and who cared greatly for others,” Mr Irvine said. “He was a pleasure to work with and will be greatly missed.”

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