Hugh “Sonny” Carter Jr., who was instrumental in putting up the “Peanut Brigade” that ultimately helped get his cousin Jimmy elected president and afterwards enforced the president’s frugality in the West Wing, has passed away. He was 80.
The Carter Center, the nonprofit the 39th president founded after leaving office to promote democracy and combat sickness in developing countries, did not announce the cause of death.
In the early stages of the 1976 presidential campaign, when the Georgia Democrat was a longshot candidate, Hugh Carter was among the numerous extended family members that campaigned alongside Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter and their children.
The tweet below verifies the news:
Hugh Carter Jr., the man known in Jimmy Carter’s administration as “Cousin Cheap,” has died at 80 https://t.co/ByzvTj2E5q
— Daniel Silliman (@danielsilliman) July 26, 2023
Hugh Carter was tasked by President Jimmy Carter after his election to reduce unnecessary spending by administration officials. His work there earned him the moniker “Cousin Cheap.”
Without mentioning his previous nickname, Jason Carter, the former president’s grandson and current head of The Carter Center’s governing board, has described Hugh Carter as “crucial in my grandfather’s election” and has added that Hugh “skillfully implemented true zero-based budgeting in my grandfather’s White House.“
Hugh Carter is a veteran of the United States Army with degrees from Georgia Tech and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and Finance. During the 1976 election, the Carters and their Georgian supporters spread out to talk to as many voters as they could.
Once Jimmy Carter had taught them how to effectively communicate his policies to the electorate, they would meet again to air their grievances. Hugh Carter was one of the aides who worked tirelessly to ensure the Brigade’s visibility in early nominating states.
As a result of this effort, Carter beat over several senators and Washington power brokers to win the Democratic nomination in the 1976 Iowa caucuses. After arriving in Washington, Jimmy Carter asked Hugh to help him execute some difficult cuts to White House running expenditures.
The president and his cousin increased the temperature of the White House’s air conditioning system, decreased the number of televisions in staff rooms, and cut back on the amount of taxpayer-funded magazine and newspaper subscriptions. Even the purchase of yellow legal pads was halted by Hugh Carter.
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He told The Washington Post in 1977 that the goal wasn’t merely to save money (these reductions were insignificant in the grand scheme of federal spending) but to fulfill his cousin’s vow to make the presidency less arrogant and pompous.
He once told The New York Times that he and the President “had the understanding that I was to be a normal staff person, that just because I was related to him, I’d be treated no differently.”
This was despite the fact that several White House workers believed he benefited from nepotism. Former president Jimmy Carter, now 98 years old, has been receiving hospice care at his home in Plains, Georgia, since February.
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