Carey, Hugh (Leo) (b Brooklyn, 11 Apr 1919).Governor.
Enlisting in the National Guard, Carey saw active service in World War II and reached the rank of colonel. He received his law degree from St. John’s University Law School, passed the bar in 1951, and entered private practice.
Elected to Congress as a Democrat in 1960, Carey took the seat of a four-term incumbent in a district that had been designed as Brooklyn’s Republican stronghold. Carey, with liberal leanings and an Irish working-class support base, was reelected six times by increasingly comfortable margins.
Assigned to the House Education and Labor Committee, he was considered the architect of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. Carey also demonstrated a strong interest in legislation to benefit people with mental illnesses or disabilities, which was to continue throughout his public career. Shifting to the Ways and Means Committee in 1971, he became a strong advocate of federal revenue sharing and, unsuccessfully, of more tax breaks for the parents of children attending parochial schools.
Originally a proponent of American involvement in Vietnam, Carey became increasingly critical of the US military presence there in the mid-1960s.He ran for president of the New York City Council in 1969, finishing a close second in a multicandidate Democratic primary. In 1974 he was overwhelmingly elected governor with the third largest plurality in state history to that point; he was reelected in 1978. The first of his many crises was a judgment in the case of the Willowbrook Developmental Center on Staten Island, which forced the state to undertake a complete and rapid reorientation of the nature, scope, and funding of its care of people with developmental disabilities or mental illnesses. The second was the fiscal crisis in New York City in spring 1975. Carey took the lead in marshaling the business community, organized labor, the state and city administrations, the state legislature, and even the federal government behind the comprehensive, but often fragile, rescue and rehabilitation program. His personal ability to bring together widely disparate coalitions for drastic and often controversial measures and to win bipartisan support for the structural and fiscal reforms was significant in bringing about economic recovery. Gov Carey played a key role in resolving the Love Canal chemical landfill crisis, which surfaced in western New York State in 1978. He inaugurated the I Love New York program, instituted the Empire State Games, and established the Conference of Northeast Governors (CONEG). Carey married Helen Owen Twohy on 27 Feb 1947; they had 14 children.
Helen Carey died in March 1974 on the eve of his first campaign for governor. In 1983 Hugh Carey returned to the practice of law.
Peter Eisenstadt, ed., The Encyclopedia of New York State
(Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2005), [p. 263].
© Syracuse University Press. Reproduced with permission from the publisher.