Gubernatorial candidate and anti-drug activist dies at 81

Ken Krautter ran an independent campaign for governor in 1970, then founded the Stop Drugs At The Source nonprofit.

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Ken Krautter ran an independent campaign for governor in 1970, then founded the Stop Drugs At The Source nonprofit.

Ken Krautter founded the Stop Drugs At The Source nonprofit

Ken Krautter may have been Georgia’s most famous unknown politician.

Krautter ran an independent campaign for governor in 1970 — a race in which he got no traction against a relatively little-known former state senator named Jimmy Carter, who went on to defeat Republican Hal Suit by nearly 20 percentage points.

But Krautter managed to grab headlines afterward, by founding an anti-drug petition drive that turned into one of the largest and most successful such efforts in U.S. history. Krautter’s Stop Drugs At The Source drive eventually became a nonprofit organization that won the backing of President-elect Ronald Reagan.

Krautter died Monday after battling a series of illnesses in recent years. He was 81.

To garner support for his petition drive in 1974, Krautter walked from Savannah to Chattanooga, with rallies in cities along the way.

Daughter Kimberly Krautter, herself a politico who most recently worked as communications manager for Atlanta mayoral candidate Felicia Moore, said her mom would drive the family station wagon along back country highways, with two kids and the family dog, and wait for Ken in the car.

“We didn’t have cell phones back then,” Kimberly Krautter said. “We’d drive two miles ahead of him and he’d walk up to the car, get some water and would walk the next two miles. As we got into town, my mom had it set up that the Jaycees, boy scouts or high school bands would march with him.”

A 1974 photo in The Atlanta Journal shows a smiling Krautter on his walk to Chattanooga — waving to traffic wearing a safari hat and a Stop Drugs At The Source t-shirt with a fanny pack around his waist and a canteen slung over his right shoulder.

Two years later, Krautter walked from Washington, Georgia to Washington, D.C., where his anti-drug campaign was declared an official bicentennial project.

Kimberly Krautter said her dad also became well-known with some of Georgia’s political elite at the time — for haranguing them over the lack of transparency in spending.

One of his largest accomplishments came when Reagan signed the petition and assigned a DEA agent to work with the nonprofit.

“My dad always said, `Wouldn’t it be great if people knew as much about their elected officials as they do about football,’” Kimberly Krautter said.

How under-the-radar was Krautter’s run for governor? University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock couldn’t recall the candidacy.

“Running as an independent, that’ll take you from obscurity to oblivion,” Bullock said with a chuckle. “That maybe will get you invited to a luncheon.”

Kimberly Krautter said it was indeed a low-budget affair: “Forty dollars and a case of beer.”

Krautter was born in Geneva, Ohio on May 17, 1940, the son of a single mother who sent him to live at a Catholic orphanage during the first years of his life. Kimberly Krautter said her dad’s Ohio birth “greatly upset him because he thought he was going to fight Yankees his whole life and then found out he was one.”

Krautter was a 1958 graduate of Marist School and studied accounting at Georgia State, later earning his CPA.

Kimberly Krautter said her dad desperately wanted to serve in the military, but couldn’t gain entrance because he had no central vision in his right eye.

“He tried to enlist in every single branch,” Kimberly Krautter said. “He kept trying to fake it.”

Krautter did end up serving in Vietnam — as a civilian in the Government Accounting Office. He became an activist against illegal drug use after returning stateside. Eventually, that passion turned into his life’s work.

Ken Krautter is survived by his wife of 50 years, Penny Lanum Krautter. Other surviving family members are: daughter Kimberly Krautter; son Derek Krautter; three grandchildren, Marisa Krautter, Brandon Krautter and Michael Whitman; and four great-grandchildren, Jordan Krautter, Alexis Krautter, Damian Gibby and Briar Snow Krautter.

Twenty years ago, the Krautter and Sanjaya families mutually “adopted” each other, and Kimberly Krautter said her dad dearly loved his children from that family: Faddy Sanjaya, Ria Tedjaatmadja, Natasha Sanjaya, Nadia Sanjaya Coughlan and her husband Shane Coughlan, all of whom survive.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks to consider donating to The Marist School Alumni Annual Fund in Ken Krautter’s name. The fund provides tuition assistance to students in need.