Rush Limbaugh's "Chief of Staff" Christopher Carson Dies at 56

"Kit" Carson was hired by the radio host shortly after launching his national show.

Christopher Carson, the first staff member of the Rush Limbaugh Show, died of brain cancer, the radio host announced at the top of his nationally syndicated radio show on Monday. He was 56.

Referred to by Rush Limbaugh on air sometimes as "Kit Carson" and other times as "H.R.," a nod to former White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman under President Richard Nixon, Carson joined the show nearly 27 years ago to screen phone calls and answer mail.

Carson eventually became producer of the show, though he was usually referred to by Limbaugh as the "chief of staff."

Carson grew up in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, and wanted to become an actor. He was tall with reddish hair and Japanese tourists occasionally mistook him for Conan O'Brien, Limbaugh said on his show Monday.

He was working for a magazine in New York in the same building that Limbaugh's syndicator was located when he was offered a job on Limbaugh's show, radio executive Kraig Kitchin told the Milwaukee, Wisconsin Journal Sentinel on Monday.  

"Rush very quickly took a liking to him," Kitchin told the publication. "His ability to say 'yes' or 'no' quickly earned the trust of the host because Kit's instincts proved to be right. That led from a part-time to full-time job, which led to leading the production."

Carson was diagnosed with cancer four years ago. It was in remission two years ago but it returned in the fall. He died Monday morning at his home in New Jersey, Limbaugh said on his show Monday. He is survived by a wife and two sons.

Limbaugh spent much of his show on Monday reminiscing about Carson.

"Kit was in all ways, every way I can think of, a special human being," Limbaugh said. "When the program debuted in 1988, nobody had any idea if it was gonna work. And we had made no plans initially for it to get big ... It took off faster and bigger than anybody had planned. So the phone started ringing and mail started coming in, and things needed to be dealt with."

When an executive with the syndicator suggested they hire "some guy" in the building named Kit Carson, Limbaugh asked: "Like the cowboy?"

He said Carson was pretty much apolitical and for a while thought of Limbaugh as a "lunatic," but they struck a friendship quickly and Carson stuck around for much longer than he had planned. Over the years, he became one of Limbaugh's most trusted confidantes.

"I had total trust. I never once thought, for example, when he was advocating that I do something, I never once thought that there was something in it for him," Limbaugh said.

"He did not allow me to be pessimistic or negative. He didn't allow me to get down in the dumps about anything," Limbaugh said. "I was thinking about it last night. I can't remember a time when he complained about things. You know how often people complain? Oh, my God. People complain all the time. People manipulate, try to manipulate you all the time. That's nothing unique to me. He never did. Never. Never did. Never undermined anybody."

Jan 27, 2015, 9:15 a.m. A previous version of this story said Carson was 58. THR regrets the error.