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Hamilton Jordan

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Hamilton Jordan

Hamilton Jordan
8th White House Chief of Staff
In office
August 6, 1979 – June 12, 1980
President Jimmy Carter
Preceded by Dick Cheney
Succeeded by Jack Watson
Personal details
Born William Hamilton McWhorter Jordan
(1944-08-21)August 21, 1944
Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S.
Died May 20, 2008(2008-05-20) (aged 63)
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
Political party Democratic Party
Alma mater University of Georgia

William Hamilton McWhorter Jordan (September 21, 1944 – May 20, 2008)[1][2] was Chief of Staff to President of the United States Jimmy Carter.

Early life

Jordan (who pronounced his last name to rhyme with "burden" rather than "cordon") was born in Athens, Georgia, and graduated with an A.B. in Political Science in 1967. After being disqualified from military service due to leg problems, he worked as a civilian volunteer in Vietnam during the war there, assisting refugees.

Political career

Jordan with Jody Powell on left

In 1970, at the age of 26, Jordan ran Jimmy Carter's successful gubernatorial campaign, which included a Democratic primary election fight against former Governor Carl Sanders and a less eventful general election against the Republican Hal Suit. While serving as Governor Carter's executive assistant, Jordan wrote a lengthy memorandum detailing a strategy for winning the 1976 Democratic Primary.[3] Years later, Jordan's memo served as the "game plan" for Carter's 1976 presidential bid.[4]

Jordan was a key advisor and strategist for Carter during the 1976 presidential campaign and during Carter's administration, serving as White House Chief of Staff in 1979–1980 (Carter, who took office in 1977, had previously not seen the need formally to appoint an aide to such a post). Jordan played a powerful role in the formulation of election strategies and government policies.[3]

Hamilton Jordan consults with Jimmy Carter in the Oval Office, August 24, 1977

In 1976 Jordan's youth and casual style gave him a media reputation as a fun-loving, partying, unsophisticated "good ole boy". This turned into a problem during the last year of the Carter administration, when Jordan became a lightning rod for critics of the president across the political spectrum. The media repeated rumors of coarse and even criminal behavior by Jordan, including supposed cocaine usage and anonymous sex at the infamous Studio 54 disco in New York City, by the club's owner Steve Rubell. Though extensive legal investigations failed to substantiate any of the rumors. Jordan later recalled this as a particularly painful time in his life.[5]

According to one often repeated story from this period, Jordan stared at the breasts of the Egyptian ambassador's wife at a Washington reception and remarked, "I have always wanted to see the pyramids".[6] The story was told in various versions, all based on anonymous sources. Jordan denied it ever took place in his memoir No Such Thing As A Bad Day.[5] CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite later recalled that the network's coverage of the cocaine allegations against Jordan was the "worst story he had ever broadcast" during his time at the station.[7]

(Jordan's associate, Timothy Kraft, the 1980 Carter campaign manager, was accused of cocaine use at a party in New Orleans and left the campaign some five weeks before the general election. He was cleared in 1981 by special prosecutor Gerald J. Gallinghouse, a Republican former U.S. Attorney who had earlier prosecuted corruption in the Louisiana state government.[8])

In 1986, Jordan ran for the Democratic nomination for one of United States Senate. He lost the primary to Representative Wyche Fowler, who went on to win the general election against the Republican incumbent Mack Mattingly.[9]

In 1992, he became a high-level staffer on the presidential campaign of independent candidate Ross Perot. In later years he served both as a member of the founders council and as an important public advocate for Unity08, a political movement focused on reforming the American two party system.[3]

Jordan was portrayed by Kyle Chandler in the 2012 film Argo.[10]

Later life

Jordan was chief executive of the Association of Tennis Professionals when they took control of the professional men's world tennis tour in 1990.[11] His nephew, R. Lawton Jordan, served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs during Bill Clinton's administration. Jordan authored the book No Such Thing As A Bad Day in 2000.


He and his wife Dorothy, a Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. An earlier marriage, to Nancy Konigsmark, ended in divorce.

His son, Hamilton Jordan Jr., is a member of the experimental metal band Genghis Tron. His two other children, Kathleen and Alex, both attended Kenyon College. Kathleen and Hamilton Jr. have helped to complete their father's unfinished memoir about growing up in the 1950s South. Jordan had written about 90% of the work, with Kathleen, a TV/film comedy executive, penning the balance.[12] Jordan's title for the memoir was Meet the Gottheimers, a reference to the fact that he had discovered, not until he was in college, that his maternal grandmother had been Jewish. As of July 2013, the memoir was being submitted to possible publishers.[13]


Jordan died on May 20, 2008, aged 63, from peritoneal mesothelioma, which he believed resulted from his exposure to asbestos during his military service. He had survived several other forms of cancer earlier in his life including diffuse histiocytic non-Hodgkin lymphoma, melanoma, and prostate cancer. His body was cremated.


  1. ^ : Hamilton Jordan, Carter's chief of staff, diesAtlanta Journal Constitution
  2. ^ : Architect Of Carter PresidencyThe Washington Post
  3. ^ a b c Lyman, Rick (2008-05-21). "Hamilton Jordan, Carter’s Right Hand, Dies at 63". New York Times. Retrieved February 18, 2010. 
  4. ^ Clift, Elanor (2008-05-22). "Remembering Hamilton Jordan". The Daily Beast. 
  5. ^ a b Jordan, Hamilton (2000). No Such Thing as a Bad Day. Atlanta, GA: Longstreet Press. 
  6. ^ "Who Will Rock This Town?". Retrieved November 29, 2009. 
  7. ^ Jordan, Hamilton (2000). No Such Thing as a Bad Day. Atlanta, GA: Longstreet Press. p. 203. 
  8. ^ ""'78 Ethics Act Sets Procedure in Such Cases", April 3, 1984".  
  9. ^ Lyman, Rick (May 21, 2008). "Hamilton Jordan, Carter's Right Hand, Dies at 63". The New York Times. 
  10. ^ "Hamilton Jordan (character)". IMDB. Retrieved 2013-02-02. 
  11. ^ James Buddell (2013-08-30). "The Tour Born in a Parking Lot". ATP. 
  12. ^ WBGO88.3FM Allan Wolper Talks to Kathleen Jordan,; accessed September 19, 2014.
  13. ^ Bosman, Julie (July 27, 2013). "Rebirth of Book by Aide to Carter". The New York Times. Retrieved August 6, 2013. 

External links

  • Profile of Hamilton Jordan
  • American Experience, "The Georgia Mafia", PBS, 2002
  • , UGA Office of Public Affairs News Release, Mar 9, 2005Hamilton Jordan coming to UGA to write book on Carter presidency
Political offices
Preceded by
Dick Cheney
White House Chief of Staff
Succeeded by
Jack Watson
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