Skip to content
Several pictures of doctors who are featured on the Local Legends web site

MEET LOCAL LEGEND: Jonnie Horn McLeod, M.D.

Picture of Jonnie Horn McLeod

Jonnie Horn McLeod, M.D.

“My father was a doctor and starting at age 13, I used to make house calls with him, helping to deliver babies. I once even stitched up a man's ear when his car wrecked outside our home!”


Sue Myrick



Jonnie Horn McLeod was a practicing pediatrician in Charlotte in the late 1960's, disturbed by the lack of drug treatment services for the chemically addicted individuals she began to see more and more of in her practice. "I started getting phone calls from parents worried about their teenagers' use of illegal drugs. I had no place to send the kids for medical help so I started a clinic," she recalled recently. "In the beginning, it was the blind leading the blind."

Using a basement laundry room at the Central YMCA equipped with furniture from various attics and a 24-hour telephone, and with support from the local medical society, she opened a walk-in crisis center in 1969. Staffed primarily by volunteers and a few regular employees, the Open House Counseling Service has grown into what Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC-9), in nominating McLeod to be a Local Legend of Medicine, noted is the "product of her vision and compassion and is the largest comprehensive addictive disease treatment center in North Carolina." In 1994, Open House was renamed the McLeod Addictive Disease Center in McLeod's honor.

Not content to rest on her laurels, in 1971 with support from the Junior League of Charlotte, she then founded the Charlotte Drug Education Center, known today as Substance Abuse Prevention Services, a private, non-profit agency whose goal is to provide better understanding of substance abuse through prevention, education and research. To its credit, Prevention Services has trained personnel to deliver prevention programs in 21 states.

"Prevention is the key," McLeod states flatly.

McLeod developed her passion for helping people through medicine as a child in rural Louisiana, when she would often accompany her physician-father as he made house calls. She said her dad initially tried to talk her out of becoming a physician because he feared it would be too hard a life and that she would be discriminated against as a woman.

Nevertheless, she decided upon medical school. "Contrary to my father's fears I never felt any discrimination," says McLeod, who earned her M.D. from Tulane University School of Medicine in 1949. For many years after her studies, she was a practicing pediatrician in the Charlotte area and also worked with various state and county organizations, including the Mecklenburg County Health Department and school system.

Among her duties for them was to teach sex education in the public schools, and it was in this role that her career turned to its focus on addictions treatment. Joining the University of North Carolina medical faculty in 1993, she established one of the state's first Master's degree programs in agency counseling with emphasis on addiction. She was also in the forefront of offering services and support systems for addicted physicians.

Widely recognized for her efforts, at Governor Jim Hunt's invitation, she served on the Governor's Commission on Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment, and chaired the Governor's Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse during the administration of Governor Jim Martin.

Although retired, she remains active in medical circles serving on the boards of many organizations including the regional AIDS consortium.



Founds the Open House Counseling Service, Charlotte, later renamed in her honor the McLeod Addictive Disease Center


Receives Governor's Award of Excellence


Recognized with Lifetime Achievement Award by the North Carolina Foundation for Alcohol and Drug Studies




Tulane University School of Medicine




North Carolina