Hamilton Jordan, who died last week of cancer, may be remembered, wrongly, as the good ole boy who got Jimmy Carter elected president in 1976 and was bizarrely investigated (though never charged) with snorting cocaine at New York City's Studio 54. A self-described "political animal," and the youngest ever White House chief of staff (at 34), Jordan—pronounced jer-dun—could be funny and profane, especially when chewing up a self-important Washington pooh-bah. House Speaker Tip O'Neill sometimes referred to him as "Hannibal Jerkin." He was, a friend of recalls, "a Southerner through and through, yet completely clear-eyed about the region's problems. He could smell hypocrisy a mile away, and found lots of it regarding race relations."
Volunteering as a civilian relief worker during the Vietnam War, he was exposed to Agent Orange, which may have caused his illness. A well disguised intellectual deeply read in history, Jordan devoted much of his life to helping the sick, raising money for research and relief in the war on cancer. With his wife, Dorothy, a former oncology nurse, he founded Camp Sunshine near Atlanta for kids with cancer and wrote a moving memoir of his own 20-year battle with four different types of the disease, entitled "No Such Thing as a Bad Day."