Benjamin Solomon Carson Sr. was born September 18, 1951. Ben was born in Detroit, Michigan, to Robert Solomon Carson Jr. (December 27, 1914 – August 29, 1992), a World War II U.S. Army veteran, and his wife Sonya Carson (née Copeland). Robert Carson was a Baptist minister, but later a Cadillac automobile plant laborer. Both of his parents came from large families in rural Georgia, and they were living in rural Tennessee when they met and married.
Ben Carson’s mother was 13 and his father was 28 when they married, and after his father finished his military service, they moved from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Detroit where they lived in a large house in the Indian Village neighborhood.
Ben Carson’s 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 in southwest Detroit.
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.
When Carson was five, his mother learned that his father had a prior family and had not divorced his first wife. In 1959, when Carson was eight, his parents separated and he moved with 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 Boston, Carson’s mother attempted suicide, had several psychiatric hospitalizations for depression, and for the first time began working outside the home as a domestic worker, while Carson and his brother attended a two-classroom school at the Berea Seventh-day Adventist church where two teachers taught eight grades and the vast majority of time was spent singing songs and playing games.
In 1961, when Carson was ten, he moved with his mother and brother back to southwest Detroit, where they lived in a multi-family dwelling in a primarily white neighborhood (Springwells Village) across the railroad tracks from the Delray neighborhood, while renting out their house on Deacon Street which his mother received in a divorce settlement.
When they returned to Detroit public schools, Carson and his brother’s academic performance initially lagged far behind their new classmates, having essentially lost a year of school by attending a Seventh-day Adventist church school in Boston, but both improved when their mother limited their time watching television and required them to read and write book reports on two library books per week.
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.
In 1965, when Carson was 13, he moved with his mother and brother back to their house on Deacon Street. He attended the predominantly black Hunter Junior High School for the second half of eighth grade.
When he was eight, Carson had dreamed of becoming a missionary doctor, but five years later he aspired to the lucrative lifestyles of psychiatrists portrayed on television, and his brother bought him a subscription to ‘Psychology Today’ for his 13th birthday.
By ninth grade, the family’s financial situation had improved, his mother surprising neighbors by paying cash to buy a new Chrysler car, and the only government assistance they still relied on was food stamps. Carson attended the predominantly black Southwestern High School for ninth through 12th grades, graduating third in his class academically.
In high school he played the baritone horn in the 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.
Carson served as a laboratory assistant in the high school’s biology, chemistry, physics school laboratories beginning in 10th, 11th, and 12th grade, respectively, and worked as a biology laboratory assistant at Wayne State University the summer between 11th and 12th grades.
Ben Carson had anger issue as a teenager he said “I would go after people with rocks, and bricks, and baseball bats, and hammers,” he also said he once tried to hit his mother on the head with a hammer over a clothing dispute, while in the ninth grade he tried to stab a friend who had changed the radio station. Fortunately, the blade broke in his friend’s belt buckle.
After this incident, Carson said that he began reading the Book of Proverbs and applying verses on anger. As a result, he states he “never had another problem with temper”.
Carson’s SAT college admission test scores ranked him somewhere in the low 90th percentile, which according to him resulted in a Detroit Free Press article “Carson Gets Highest SAT Scores in Twenty Years” of any student in Detroit public schools.
He wanted to attend college farther away than his brother who was at the University of Michigan. Carson says he narrowed his college choices to Harvard or Yale, but could only afford the $10 application fee to apply to one of them. He said he decided to apply to Yale after seeing a team from Yale defeat a team from Harvard on the G.E. College Bowl television show.
Carson was accepted by Yale and offered a full scholarship covering tuition, room and board. Carson graduated with a B.A. in psychology from Yale in 1973 “with a fairly respectable grade point average, although far from the top of the class.
In the summers following his high school graduation until his second year in medical school, Carson worked at a variety of jobs: as a clerk in the payroll office of Ford Motor Company, supervisor of a six-person crew picking up trash along the highway under a federal jobs program for inner-city students, a clerk in the mailroom of Young & Rubicam Advertising, assembling fender parts and inspecting back window louvers on the assembly line at Chrysler, a crane operator at Sennett Steel, and finally a radiology technician taking X-rays. At Yale, Carson had a part-time job on campus as a student police aide.
Carson entered the University of Michigan Medical School in 1973, and at first struggled academically, doing so poorly on his first set of comprehensive exams that his faculty adviser recommended he drop out of medical school or take a reduced academic load and take longer to finish. He continued with a regular academic load, and his grades improved to average in his first year of medical school.
By his second year of medical school, Carson began to excel academically by seldom attending lectures and instead, studying textbooks and lecture notes from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Carson graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School with an M.D. in 1977, and was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society.
Carson 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.
After medical school, Carson completed his residency in neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. Around this time, as Carson later related to Karen Hunter of Sirius XM, he was held at gunpoint at a Popeyes restaurant in Baltimore.
Armstrong Williams, Carson’s campaign business manager, later told Wolf Blitzer of CNN that several people in the neighborhood chased the robber down the street. Neither the Baltimore police department nor Popeyes could corroborate Carson’s story, since no police report had been made.
In 1983, at the suggestion of an Australian colleague, he accepted the position of senior registrar at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital (in Perth, Western Australia), spending one year there. Upon returning to Johns Hopkins in 1984, Carson was appointed the university’s Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery.
As a surgeon, he specialized in traumatic brain injuries, brain and spinal cord tumors, achondroplasia, neurological and congenital disorders, craniosynostosis, epilepsy, and trigeminal neuralgia. He has said that his hand–eye coordination and three-dimensional reasoning made him a gifted surgeon.
While at Johns Hopkins, Carson figured in the revival of the hemispherectomy, a drastic surgical procedure in which part or all of one hemisphere of the brain is removed to control severe pediatric epilepsy. Encouraged by John M. Freeman, he refined the procedure in the 1980s and performed it many times.
In 1987, Carson was the lead neurosurgeon of a 70-member surgical team that separated conjoined twins, Patrick and Benjamin Binder, who had been joined at the back of the head (craniopagus twins); the separation surgery held promise in part because the twin boys had separate brains. Both boys entered the hospital “giggling and kicking” in preparation for surgery without which the seven-month-old twins would never have been able to crawl, walk, or even turnover.
The Johns Hopkins surgical team rehearsed the surgery for weeks, practising on two dolls secured together by Velcro. Although follow-up stories were few following the Binder twins’ return to Germany seven months after the operation, both twins were reportedly “far from normal” two years after the procedure, with one in a vegetative state. “I will never get over this . . . Why did I have them separated?” said their mother, Theresia Binder, in a 1993 interview.
Neither of the twins was ever able to talk or care for himself, and both would eventually become institutionalized wards of the state. Patrick Binder died sometime during the last decade, according to his uncle, who was located by the Washington Post in 2015. The Binder surgery served as blueprint for similar twin separations, a procedure that was refined in subsequent decades.
Carson participated in four subsequent high-risk conjoined twin separations, including a 1997 operation on craniopagus Zambian twins, Joseph and Luka Banda, which resulted in a normal neurological outcome. Two sets of twins died, including Iranian twins Ladan and Laleh Bijani; another separation resulted in the death of one twin and the survival of another, who is legally blind and struggles to walk.
According to the Washington Post, the Binder surgery “launched the stardom” of Carson, who “walked out of the operating room that day into a spotlight that has never dimmed”, beginning with a press conference that was covered worldwide, which created name recognition leading to publishing deals and a motivational speaking career.
On the condition the film would have its premiere in Baltimore, Carson agreed to a cameo appearance as “head surgeon” in the 2003 Farrelly brothers’ comedy Stuck on You, starring Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear as conjoined twins who, unhappy after their surgical separation, continue life attached to each other by Velcro.
In March 2013, Carson announced he would retire as a surgeon, saying he would “much rather quit when I’m at the top of my game.” His retirement became official on July 1, 2013.
Carson, who had been registered as a Republican, changed his registration to independent in the 1990s after watching Republicans impeach President Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice regarding an extramarital affair with Monica Lewinsky. “I just saw so much hypocrisy in both parties”, he said. In February 2013, Carson said he was not a member of any political party.
On May 2, 2015, Carson proclaimed that in two days, he was going to make a major announcement on his decision on whether to enter the Presidential Race. In an interview with a Cincinnati TV station WKRC (AM) on May 3, 2015, Carson accidentally confirmed his candidacy for president. The interview was also broadcast live on WPEC.
The next day, May 4, 2015, at the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts in his home town of Detroit, he officially announced his run for the Republican nomination in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The announcement speech was preceded by a choir singing “Lose Yourself” with Carson sitting in the audience. After the song, Carson took the stage and announced his candidacy alongside a speech on his rags to riches life story.
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 said, “this grassroots movement on behalf of ‘We the People’ will continue,” indicating that he would give more details later in the week. 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.
In total, Ben Carson’s campaign spent $58 million. However, most of the money went to political consultants and fundraising rather than advertising. Carson questioned whether his campaign was economically sabotaged from within.
After Donald Trump’s win in the 2016 election, Carson joined Trump’s transition team as Vice Chairman. Carson was also offered a cabinet position in the administration. He declined, in part because of his lack of experience, with an aide stating, “The last thing he would want to do was take a position that could cripple the presidency.”
Although it was reported that the position was for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Carson’s business manager has disputed this, stating, “Dr. Carson was never offered a specific position, but everything was open to him.” He was eventually offered the position of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, which he accepted.
On December 5, 2016, Trump announced that he would nominate Carson to the position of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. During the confirmation process, Carson was scrutinized by some housing advocates for what they perceived as his lack of relevant experience, and because he has been one the most hostile critics of HUD’s role in enforcing anti-discrimination laws. During the confirmation hearing, Carson “would not commit definitively to avoid directing tax dollars to Trump businesses.”
On January 24, 2017, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs voted unanimously to approve the nomination. On March 2, 2017, Carson was confirmed by the Senate by a 58-41 vote.
Carson and his wife, Lacena “Candy” Rustin, met in 1971 as students at Yale University. They married in 1975 and lived in Howard County, Maryland, before moving in 2001 to West Friendship, Maryland, where they had purchased a 48-acre property.
Together, the couple have three sons (Rhoeyce, Benjamin Jr., and Murray), as well as several grandchildren. Their youngest son, Murray, was born in Perth, Australia, while Carson was undertaking a residency there. In 2013, Carson, his wife, and Carson’s mother moved to West Palm Beach, Florida
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”. They founded it after reading that U.S. students ranked second to last in terms of math and science testing among 22 countries. They also noticed that schools awarded athletes with trophies, whereas honor students only received “a pin or certificate.”
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.
Awards won by Ben Carson
Ben 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.
Ben Carson has written so many books, examples are:
Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story. Zondervan. 1992. (with Cecil Murphey)
Think Big: Unleashing Your Potential for Excellence. Zondervan. 1996.
The Big Picture: Getting Perspective on What’s Really Important in Life. Zondervan. 2000. (With Gregg Lewis)
Take the Risk: Learning to Identify, Choose, and Live with Acceptable Risk. Zondervan. 2009.
America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great. Thomas Nelson. 2013. (With Candy Carson)
One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America’s Future. Sentinel. 2014. (With Candy Carson), on the New York Times bestsellers list for 20 straight weeks, with 5 weeks as #1
One Vote: Make Your Voice Heard. Tyndale House. 2014. (With Candy Carson)
You Have a Brain: A Teen’s Guide to T.H.I.N.K. B.I.G. 2015. (With Gregg Lewis, Deborah Shaw Lewis)
My Life: Based on the Book Gifted Hands. Zondervan. 2015. (with Cecil Murphey)
A More Perfect Union: What We the People Can Do to Reclaim Our Constitutional Liberties. 2015. (With Candy Carson).