Hugh Leo Carey, April 11, 1919 – August 7, 2011 was an American attorney, the 51st Governor of New York from 1975 to 1982, and a former seven-term United States Representative (1961–1974).
Carey was born in Brooklyn, New York. Carey joined the U.S. Army as an enlisted man during World War II, served in Europe, and reached the rank of colonel. He received his bachelor's degree in 1942 and law degree in 1951 from St. John's University and was admitted to the bar that same year.
Carey was married in 1947 to Helen Owen. They became the parents of Alexandria, Christopher, Susan, Peter, Hugh, Jr., Michael, Donald, Marianne, Nancy, Helen, Bryan, Paul, Kevin, and Thomas. His wife, Helen Owen Carey, died of breast cancer in 1974. Peter and Hugh, Jr. died in an automobile accident in 1969. Paul, who served as White House Special Assistant to President Bill Clinton as well as 77th Commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission, died of cancer in 2001.
In 1981 Carey married Evangeline Gouletas, a Chicago-based Greek-American real estate mogul. This marriage proved controversial and a political liability. The marriage generated controversy since Gouletas had affirmed on the marriage license that she had two ex-husbands when she actually had three. Gouletas also said that her first husband, with whom she had a daughter, was dead when he was still alive at the time. The marriage also caused trouble for Carey with the Catholic Church since he married a thrice-divorced woman in a Greek Orthodox Church. Carey and Gouletas-Carey divorced in 1989. Carey later described this marriage as "his greatest failure.
Early political career
Running as a Democrat, Carey was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1960, unseating Republican incumbent Francis E. Dorn. He served seven terms. He served on the House Ways and Means Committee and led the effort to pass the first Federal Aid to Education program. He was elected Governor of New York in 1974 and resigned his Congressional seat on December 31, 1974. Carey was reelected in 1978, serving two full terms as Governor. On January 1, 1983 he was succeeded by his lieutenant governor, Mario Cuomo. Carey returned to private law practice with the firm of Harris Beach in New York City, where he resided until his death in August, 2011. He was the first congressman from Brooklyn to oppose the Vietnam War.
Carey was elected Governor in 1974, unseating incumbent Republican Malcolm Wilson, who had assumed the office after Nelson Rockefeller had resigned. President Richard Nixon's resignation that year because of the Watergate scandal made Republicans nationally unpopular. Carey became the state's first Democratic Governor in 16 years. In 1974, Democrats also recaptured the New York State Assembly. Carey is best remembered for his successful handling of New York City's economic crisis in the late 1970s. As Governor he was responsible for building the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center; Battery Park City; the South Street Seaport and the economic development of the NYC boroughs outside Manhattan. He also helped provide state funding for the construction of the Carrier Dome at Syracuse University. He is also remembered for preventing conservative legislators from reinstating the death penalty and preventing such legislators from taking away state abortion laws.
Upon taking office, Carey cut taxes significantly, reduced corporate taxes from 14 percent to 10 percent, capped personal income tax at nine percent, and reduced capital gains taxes. His administration also offered tax credits to encourage new investment.
Carey came into office with New York City close to bankruptcy. He brought business and labor together to help save New York City from the fiscal crisis that befell it in the 1970s. Carey managed to keep the growth of state spending below the rate of inflation through his frequent use of line-item vetoes and fights with the New York State Legislature, which was at the time divided between a Republican-controlled Senate and a Democratic-controlled Assembly.
Carey signed the Willowbrook Consent Decree, which ended the warehousing of the mentally retarded and developmentally disabled. His vision and leadership led to the community placement of the mentally retarded and developmentally disabled. He also made major strides in community programs for the mentally ill.
Carey's tenure in office was marked by a growing awareness of the environmental consequences of New York's strong industrial base, including the designation by the federal government of the Love Canal disaster area. Carey made environmental issues a priority of his administration.
Along with Senators Edward Kennedy and Daniel Patrick Moynihan and U.S. House Speaker Tip O'Neill, Carey led efforts to end the violence in Northern Ireland and support peace in the region. The four Irish-American politicians called themselves "The Four Horsemen.
Carey considered running for President in 1976 and 1980. Carey's first wife, Helen Owen, had died in 1974, and Carey later attributed his decision not to seek the Democratic nomination for President in 1976 to her death.
Carey pardoned Cleveland "Jomo" Davis, one of the leaders of the Attica prison uprising.
In 1978, he was challenged for re-election by State Assembly Minority Leader and former Assembly Speaker Perry Duryea. After a competitive, sometimes negative campaign, Carey was the first Democrat re-elected in 40 years. Carey decided against seeking a third term as governor in 1982.
In 1989, Carey announced that he was no longer pro-choice and regretted his support for legalized abortion and public financing of abortion as governor. In 1992, he joined other pro-life leaders in signing the pro-life document "A New American Compact: Caring About Women, Caring for the Unborn. In April 2006 Carey endorsed State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer as a candidate for Governor; Spitzer went on to win the election by a large margin.
Carey died surrounded by his family on August 7, 2011, at his summer home in Shelter Island, New York