Richard Jesse was born in Missoula, Montana in 1924. He was a graduate of the University of Nebraska School of Medicine in 1949. He served his internship at Nebraska Methodist Hospital and his surgical residency at the University of Nebraska School of Medicine. He received Board certification in 1959.
Richard served as a Captain in the Medical Corps of the United States Air Force from 1950 to 1952. He then served in a residency at the MD Anderson Tumor Institute in Houston, Texas and then came a member of the staff in 1958.
In 1967, he succeeded Dr. William MacComb as Chief of the Department of Head and Neck Cancer, a position that Dr. Jesse occupied until his death at a young age from hepatitis. The infection was acquired from operating room contact. He was also Professor of Surgery in the Post-graduate school of the University of Texas.
Richard made major contributions to the literature in head and neck oncology, and had a good grasp of the concepts of the integration of radiation and surgery in the care of the patient. He was a dynamic individual and a skilled surgeon.
Richard was a member of a number of organizations, including the American Radium Society and the James Ewing Society. He was president of the Texas Division of the American Cancer Society. His leadership role in the SHNS was recognized early, leading to his election to the presidency in 1975.