Dr. Edward Brandt Jr. was in charge of the federal government's first response to the AIDS epidemic. In 1981, Dr. Brandt became the assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. That same year, he was approached by an official from the Centers for Disease Control and told about three sick gay men in Los Angeles. Each had symptoms that no one had ever seen before. As similar cases began to surface that year, it was Dr. Brandt who persuaded the federal government to get involved. Brandt later said "it was the first time in our nation's history that the federal government was called upon to fight an epidemic." Dr. Brandt died late last month of lung cancer. He was 74.