Dr. Benjamin S. Carson, Sr., a prominent pediatric neurosurgeon and Seventh-day Adventist who was the first member of the denomination to seek the U.S. Presidential nomination has accepted an offer extended by President-elect Donald J. Trump to become Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, commonly known as HUD, a federal agency which spends $48 billion a year.
According to the agency's website, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) which was established in 1965 as a Cabinet Department is the “Federal agency responsible for national policy and programs that address America's housing needs, improve and develop the Nation's communities and enforce fair housing laws”. While considering the HUD appointment, Carson told Fox News, "our inner cities are in terrible shape and they definitely need some real attention."
If confirmed by the United States Senate, Carson would become the 17 th Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and the first Seventh-day Adventist to hold a Cabinet level position. According to the Congressional Research Service, the HUD Secretary would also be thirteenth in the line of succession to the U.S. presidency.
"I am thrilled to nominate Dr. Ben Carson as our next Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Ben Carson has a brilliant mind and is passionate about strengthening communities and families within those communities," a statement quotes Trump as saying. "We have talked at length about my urban renewal agenda and our message of economic revival, very much including our inner cities. Ben shares my optimism about the future of our country and is part of ensuring that this is a Presidency representing all Americans. He is a tough competitor and never gives up."
The same statement quotes Carson: "I feel that I can make a significant contribution particularly by strengthening communities that are most in need. We have much work to do in enhancing every aspect of our nation and ensuring that our nation’s housing needs are met."
Carson, 65, retired as Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, in 2013. His successful operation to separate Siamese twins conjoined at the back of the head catapulted him into international prominence. His personal story of rising from poverty in Detroit, Michigan through hard work, a dedication to education, and faith in Jesus, were the themes of “Gifted Hands,” an autobiography later made into a television movies tarring Academy Award-winner Cuba Gooding, Jr., as Carson.
In 2008, Carson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by then-President George W. Bush, who noted Carson’s triumph over a “grim future” of poverty and crime to become “a scholar, a healer, and a leader.” Carson’s mother, and early influencer, Sonya, attended the White House ceremony, along with Carson’s wife Candy. Ben and Candy Carson, along with their children, are members of the Spencerville Seventh-day Adventist Church in Silver Spring, Maryland.
In May 2015, Carson announced his presidential bid, drawing attention to his Seventh-day Adventist connection. The church’s North American Division said at the time that while Adventism “values” Carson, “it is important for the church to maintain its long-standing historical support for the separation of church and state by not endorsing or opposing any candidate.”
No Seventh-day Adventist has previously held a Cabinet-level post in United States history. President Warren G. Harding, whose mother and sister were Seventh-day Adventists, appointed several Adventist family members to government posts after his 1920 election, but none of them with Cabinet rank. Harding’s sister Carolyn Harding Votaw, served as head of the U.S. Public Health Service’s social service division, and her husband, Heber Votaw, was appointed by Harding’s attorney general as Superintendent of Prisons for the Federal government. Both left office within a year of President Harding’s 1923 death from a heart attack.
More recently, Chaplain Barry C. Black, a retired Navy rear admiral and chief of naval chaplains, was appointed by U.S. Senate as Senate chaplain, the first Seventh-day Adventist and the first African-American to hold that role. A handful of Adventists have also served in the U.S. Congress, including Roscoe Bartlett, Jerry Pettis and current Representative Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and Representative Raul Ruiz of California.