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Dr Ben Carson
Ben Carson official portrait.jpg
17th United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
In office
March 2, 2017 – January 20, 2021
President Donald Trump
Deputy Pam Patenaude
Brian D. Montgomery
Preceded by Julian Castro
Succeeded by Marcia Fudge
Personal details
Benjamin Solomon Carson

(1951-09-18) September 18, 1951 (age 72)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Political party Republican (1981–1999, after 2014)
Other political
Democratic (before 1981)
Independent (1999–2014)
(m. 1975)
Children 3
Residences Vienna, Virginia, U.S.
Alma mater Yale University (BA)
University of Michigan (MD)
  • Neurosurgeon
  • politician
  • academic
  • author
Awards Presidential Medal of Freedom (2008)
Scientific career
Fields Neurosurgery
Pediatric neurosurgery
Institutions Johns Hopkins University
National Academy of Medicine

Benjamin Solomon Carson Sr. (born September 18, 1951) is an American retired neurosurgeon, academic, author, and politician who served as the 17th United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 2017 to 2021. He was a candidate for President of the United States in the 2016 Republican primaries.

Carson has received numerous honors for his neurosurgery work, including more than 60 honorary doctorate degrees and numerous national merit citations. In 2001, he was named by CNN and Time magazine as one of the nation's 20 foremost physicians and scientists and was selected by the Library of Congress as one of 89 "Living Legends" on its 200th anniversary. In 2008, Carson was bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. In 2010, he was elected into the National Academy of Medicine. He was the subject of the 2009 TV film Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story, wherein he was portrayed by Cuba Gooding Jr.

Early life and education

Carson's parents were Robert Solomon Carson Jr. (1914–1992), a World War II U.S. Army veteran, and Sonya Carson (née Copeland, 1928–2017). Both from large families in rural Georgia, Carson's parents met and married while living in rural Tennessee. After Robert's completion of military service, they moved from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to Detroit, Michigan, where they lived in a large house in the Indian Village neighborhood. Carson's father, a Baptist minister, worked in a Cadillac automobile plant. His older brother, Curtis, was born in 1949, when his mother was 20. In 1950, Carson's parents purchased a new 733-square foot single-family detached home on Deacon Street in the Boynton neighborhood of southwest Detroit, where Carson was born on September 18, 1951.

Carson's Detroit Public Schools education began in 1956 with kindergarten at the Fisher School and continued through first, second, and the first half of third grade, during which time he was an average student. At the age of five, his mother learned that his father had a prior family and had not divorced his first wife. In 1959, at the age of eight, his parents separated and he moved with his mother and brother to live for two years with his mother's Seventh-day Adventist older sister and her sister's husband in multi-family dwellings in the Dorchester and Roxbury neighborhoods of Boston.

In 1961, at the age of 10, he moved with his mother and brother back to southwest Detroit. Carson attended the predominantly white Higgins Elementary School for fifth and sixth grades and the predominantly white Wilson Junior High School for seventh and the first half of eighth grade. He attended Hunter Junior High School for the second half of eighth grade.

High school

By grade 9, the family's financial situation had improved. Carson attended the predominantly black Southwestern High School for grades nine through twelve, graduating third in his class academically. Carson served as a laboratory assistant in the high school's biology, chemistry, and physics school laboratories beginning in grades 10, 11, and 12, respectively, and worked as a biology laboratory assistant at Wayne State University the summer between grade 11 and 12.


Carson wanted to attend college farther away than his brother who was at the University of Michigan. He narrowed his college choices to Harvard or Yale but could only afford the $10 application fee to apply for only one of them. Carson was accepted by Yale and offered a full scholarship covering tuition, room and board. In 1973, Carson graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Yale "with a fairly respectable grade point average although far from the top of the class". At Yale, Carson had a part-time job on campus as a student police aide.

Medical school

Carson graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School with an M.D. degree in 1977, and he was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society.

He was then accepted by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine neurosurgery program, where he served one year as a surgical intern and five years as a neurosurgery resident, completing the final year as chief resident in 1983. He then spent one year (1983–1984) as a Senior Registrar in neurosurgery at the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Nedlands, a suburb of Perth, Western Australia.

Medical career

Carson became the director of pediatric neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center in 1984 at age 33, then the youngest chief of pediatric neurosurgery in the United States. In 1987, he gained significant fame after leading a team of surgeons in the first known separation of conjoined twins joined at the back of the head. Although the surgery was a success, the twins continued to experience neurological and medical complications. His additional accomplishments include developing new methods to treat brain-stem tumors, and revitalizing hemispherectomy techniques for controlling seizures. He wrote over 100 neurosurgical publications. He retired from medicine in 2013; at the time, he was professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery, and pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

In 2021, Carson joined Galectin Therapeutics to assist with development of the company's galectin-3 inhibitor, belapectin, as a treatment for NASH cirrhosis and in combination with immunotherapy for the treatment of cancers.

Articles and books

George W. Bush and Ben Carson
Carson and President George W. Bush in 2008
The Bushes and the Carsons
Ben and Candy Carson with George and Laura Bush in 2008

Carson has written many articles and six bestselling books. The first book was an autobiography published in 1992. Two others are about his personal philosophies of success and what he sees as the stabilizing influence of religion.

2016 presidential campaign

Ben Carson by Gage Skidmore 7
Carson speaking at a campaign event in August 2015

On May 4, 2015, at the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts in his home town of Detroit, Carson officially announced his run for the Republican nomination in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Ben Carson by Gage Skidmore 9
Carson at a rally in August 2015
Sean Hannity & Ben Carson (24032441754)
Carson and Sean Hannity in January 2016
Ben Carson by Gage Skidmore 8
Carson speaking before the Nevada caucuses in February 2016

The campaign brought considerable attention to Carson's past. CBS News described Carson's narrative of "overcoming impossible odds as a child growing up in an impoverished, single-parent household to reach international prominence as a pediatric neurosurgeon" as "a key part of his presidential campaign".

On March 2, following the Super Tuesday 2016 primaries, Carson announced that he did "not see a political path forward" and would not attend the next Republican debate in Detroit. He suspended his campaign on March 4 and announced he would be the new national chairman of My Faith Votes, a group that encourages Christians to exercise their civic duty to vote

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

On December 5, 2016, Trump announced that he would nominate Carson to the position of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. On January 24, 2017, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs voted unanimously to approve the nomination. He was then confirmed by the Senate by a 58–41 vote the next day.

2019 State of the Union (47009455851)
Carson at the 2019 State of the Union
Black History Month Program 2019 (32409065997)
Carson speaks in 2019

Carson Scholars Fund

In 1994, Carson and his wife started the Carson Scholars Fund which awards scholarships to students in grades 4–11 for "academic excellence and humanitarian qualities".

Recipients of the Carson Scholars Fund receive a $1,000 scholarship towards their college education. It has awarded 6,700 scholarships. In recognition for his work with the Carson Scholars Fund and other charitable giving throughout his lifetime, Carson was awarded the William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership in 2005.

American Cornerstone Institute

In 2021, Carson founded the American Cornerstone Institute or ACI, a conservative think tank centered around advancing policies that promote "faith, liberty, community, and life".

The ACI's mission statement is "dedicated to promoting and preserving individual and religious liberty, helping our country's most vulnerable find new hope, and developing methods to decrease the federal government's role in society and to improve efficiency to best serve ALL our nation's citizens.

Personal life

Carson and his wife, fellow Detroit native Lacena "Candy" Rustin, met in 1971 as students at Yale University and married in 1975. They began living in West Friendship, Maryland, in 1988. Together, the couple have three sons (Rhoeyce, Benjamin Jr., and Murray), as well as several grandchildren. Their oldest son, Murray, was born in Perth, Australia, while Carson was undertaking a residency there. In 1981 Carson's wife became pregnant with twins before miscarrying in the fifth month of her pregnancy.

In 2001, Ben and Candy Carson bought a 48-acre property in Upperco, Maryland.

After being diagnosed with prostate cancer, Carson underwent a two-hour operation at the Johns Hopkins Hospital on August 7, 2002.

In 2013, Carson, his wife, and Carson's mother moved to West Palm Beach, Florida.

Surrounding his confirmation as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Carson bought a $1.22 million home in Vienna, Virginia, in February 2017 and sold his West Palm Beach home for over $900,000 in May 2017.


Carson was at one point a lacto-ovo vegetarian (he ate dishes containing milk, eggs, or cheese, and occasionally, poultry). He has said his main reason for becoming vegetarian was health concerns, including avoiding parasites and heart disease.

Interesting facts about Ben Carson

  • At the age of eight, Carson dreamt of becoming a missionary doctor.
  • In high school, he played the euphonium in band and participated in forensics (public speaking), chess club, and the U.S. Army Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) program where he reached its highest rank—cadet colonel.
  • In his book Gifted Hands, Carson relates that as a youth, he had a violent temper.
  • Carson's SAT college admission test scores ranked him somewhere in the low 90th percentile.
  • He applied to Yale after seeing a team from Yale defeat a team from Harvard on the G.E. College Bowl television show.
  • In the summers following his high school graduation until his second year in medical school, Carson worked as a clerk in the payroll office of Ford Motor Company, supervisor of a six-person crew picking up trash along the highway, a crane operator and a radiology technician taking X-rays, among others.
  • While at Johns Hopkins, Carson refined the procedure of the hemispherectomy, in which part or all of one hemisphere of the brain is removed to control severe pediatric epilepsy.

Ben Carson quotes

  • "Happiness doesn't result from what we get, but from what we give."
  • "Always give your best and try to figure out how to do an even better job."
  • "When I don't have an answer, I pray. God is the only alternative source of help."
  • "You are what you think."
  • "Be nice to every-body. You meet the same people going up as you meet going down."
  • "Not prejudge others – not decide their value before knowing them"
  • "The mind, once stretched by an idea, never returns to its original dimension."

Awards and honors

Ben Carson (cropped)
Carson at the White House in 2008 for the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Carson is a member of the American Academy of Achievement, Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society, and the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans.

Carson has been awarded 38 honorary doctorate degrees and dozens of national merit citations. Detroit Public Schools opened the Dr. Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine for students interested in pursuing healthcare careers. The school is partnering with Detroit Receiving Hospital and Michigan State University.

  • In 2000, he received the Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards.
  • In 2001, he was elected by the Library of Congress on the occasion of its 200th anniversary to be one of the 89 who earned the designation Library of Congress Living Legend.
  • In 2004, he was appointed to serve on The President's Council on Bioethics.
  • In 2005, Carson was awarded the William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership.
  • In 2006, he received the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP, their highest honor for outstanding achievement.
  • In 2008, the White House awarded Carson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.
  • In 2008, Ford's Theatre Society awarded Carson the Ford's Theatre Lincoln Medal, for exemplifying the qualities embodied by President Abraham Lincoln—including courage, integrity, tolerance, equality, and creative expression—through superior achievements.
  • In 2008, U.S. News & World Report named Carson as one of "America's Best Leaders".
  • In 2010, he was elected into the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine.
  • In 2012, Carson was the Influential Marylander Award recipient from The Daily Record, Baltimore's legal and business newspaper.
  • In 2014, a poll of Americans conducted by Gallup ranked Carson sixth on a list of the most admired persons.
  • He is an emeritus fellow of the Yale Corporation.

See also

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