Biography of Governor Tom Ridge
Office of Homeland Security
On October 8, 2001, Tom Ridge was sworn in as the first Director
of the Office of Homeland Security in the history of the United
States of America. In the words of President George W. Bush, he
had the strength, experience, personal commitment and authority
to accomplish this critical mission.
The President established the Office of Homeland Security and
the Homeland Security Council, following the tragic events of
September 11. His charge to the nation's new director of homeland
defense was to develop and coordinate a comprehensive national
strategy to strengthen protections against terrorist threats or
attacks in the United States.
Ridge was twice elected Governor of Pennsylvania, serving from
1995 to 2001. He kept his promise to make Pennsylvania "a leader
among states and a competitor among nations." Governor Ridge's
aggressive technology strategy helped fuel the state's advances
in the priority areas of economic development, education, health
and the environment.
The Governor Ridge cut taxes every year he was in office. To
ensure Pennsylvania was home to the jobs of the future, the Governor
created industry-led Greenhouse initiatives in advanced computing
technologies and the life sciences.
He signed into law the Education Empowerment Act, to help more
than a quarter-million children in Pennsylvania's lowest-performing
schools. His education technology initiatives brought anytime,
anywhere learning to Pennsylvanians from pre-school to adult education.
During his years in the Governor's office the number of children
receiving free or low-cost health care through Pennsylvania's
nationally recognized Children's Health Insurance Program increased
by 145 percent increase.
Governor Ridge's common sense Land Recycling Program is a national
model. He won passage of "Growing Greener," to make Pennsylvania's
largest environmental investment ever, nearly $650 million.
Born Aug. 26, 1945, in Pittsburgh's Steel Valley, Gov. Ridge
was raised in a working class family in veterans' public housing
in Erie. He earned a scholarship to Harvard, graduating with honors
in 1967. After his first year at The Dickinson School of Law,
he was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he served as an infantry
staff sergeant in Vietnam, earning the Bronze Star for Valor.
After returning to Pennsylvania, he earned his law degree and
was in private practice before becoming assistant district attorney
in Erie County. He was elected to Congress in 1982. He was the
first enlisted Vietnam combat veteran elected to the U.S. House,
and was overwhelmingly re-elected six times.
Governor Ridge and his wife, Michele, the former executive director
of the Erie County Library system, have two children, Lesley and