It’s not often that a campaign operative points to a celebrity setting himself on fire as a genesis for political engagement. But Houston-based attorney Terry Giles — now the top man on retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson’s nascent presidential bid — can claim just that.
While freebasing cocaine in 1980, comedian Richard Pryor doused himself with liquor, set himself on fire and ran down his suburban Los Angeles street. The superstar comedian — obviously in need of medical attention — was also in legal trouble.
Giles became Pryor’s attorney. And he helped orchestrate the effort to rehabilitate the comedian’s image — including working with the Reagan administration to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a holiday.
“The Richard Pryor thing was my first connection to Washington,” Giles said in an interview with the Texas Tribune.
Three decades later, with Carson as his front man, Giles is taking his first stab at electoral politics.
Both Carson and Giles are political iconoclasts. Unlike the governors and senators lining up to run in 2016, Carson is a world-famous surgeon and author who caught notice in GOP politics when he delivered the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast address. He will be in Austin on Thursday, speaking to a gathering of the Texas Hospital Association.
Giles, meanwhile, is not your born-and-bred political operative; he’s the man behind the scenes who litigated — and sometimes mitigated — some of the most sensationally nasty celebrity and political dramas of the last several decades.
The two men met in 1994, when both won the Horatio Alger Award, which honors community leadership. “Ben and I just kind of bonded at that gathering and became good friends over the years,” Giles said.
Giles, a native of St. Louis, was educated in California, where he built a criminal law practice in the 1970s. He “represented relatively infamous people,” including one of the “hillside stranglers,” who were a pair of Los Angeles-based serial killers.
Source: Washington Post | Abby Livingston, Texas Tribune