Mad Man Charlie Peters Comes To Washington, Part Three

Arriving in D.C. and hired as a consultant to the General Counsel’s office, Charlie Peters first job for the Peace Corps was to negotiate with the government of Puerto Rico for the establishment of Camp Crozier at Rio Abajo. The only problem was that  he had no idea how to do it. But as he said in Coates Redmon’s book, “In those days my zeal was going well past what I know I was doing.”

Kenny O’Donnell, however, had advised Peters to get to know Bill Haddad at the Peace Corps because O’Donnell basically knew Charlie was going to need help in Washington.  

Haddard happened to have been in Shriver’s office when the White House called to recommend Peters to the agency. Haddard realized that if Bobby Kennedy was prepared to endorse Peters, Peters must be first rate. Haddad also guessed that Peters must have some secret connection to the White House that none of them knew about.

But who in the hell was Haddad?

Haddad was another Mad Man. He was the Associate Director for the Office of Planning and Evaluation (and he would be Charlie’s boss). In an early Peace Corps pamphlet, Haddad is described as “the man who runs up escalators.” He had attempted, for example, to join the army post-Pearl Harbor at the age of 14! And he got as far as the Army Air Corps pilot training program, advanced to the cadet squadron commander level when they found out he wasn’t old enough to drive a car.

We’ll come back to Haddad later. Meanwhile, we had Charlie Peters to worry about and he was on his way to Puerto Rico.

He went to San Juan t two days after arriving at the Peace Corps and walked into the reception room of the attorney general. Fortunately, the A.G. was on a long lunch hour and Charlie furiously started going through law books on the bookcases, trying to pretend to the A.G.’s secretary that he was just passing the time. Five minutes before the A.G. came back from lunch, Charlie found the right book that gave the jurisdiction for contracts involving the creation of American institutions not on home turf.

“When the A.G. returned,” Charlie recalls, “I walked into his office and confidently said, ‘Mr. Attorney General, Section 3282 of the U.S. Code, annotated, points out that…’

The A.G. was utterly snowed. An agreement was signed immediately. A decision in one day was beyond belief to everyone at the Peace Corps headquarters.

Charlie returned to Washington with what Warren Wiggins used to call “the program in your pocket.”

Charlie Peters had demonstrated  to the Mad Men of the Peace Corps that he was indeed a miracle worker. And he hadn’t even been on board at the Peace Corps a week! 

[End of Part Three]

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  • Reference to Charlie’s mission to Puerto Rico—The history of Camp Crozier and Camp Radley, Puerto Rico..the camps (former CCC camps) were named in honor of the first two PCV’s who died in Peace Corps service, David Crozier from Missouri and Larry Radley from Chicago members of the Colombia I group.

    Crozier and Radley were returning from Easter vacation on the Atlantic Coast in the Choco region of Colombia ( where Colombia joins the Istmus of Panama) on a DC 3 aircraft . The plane was overloaded and did not clear a mountain top on it’s approach to Quibdo, the regional state capital.

    PCV’s led by Ned Chalker and Byron Hopewell treked to to the crash site with Army Green Beret’s stationed at their HQ in Panama. There were no survivours.

    Shortly before the accident, Crozier wrote his parents that he would rather give his life for his country in the Peace Corps than in a war!

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