Information from www.rickperry.org
The 47th governor of Texas, Rick Perry grew up in the small community of Paint Creek located along the rolling plains of West Texas. Rick Perry is the son of Ray Perry, a World War II tailgunner who flew 35 missions over war-torn Europe, and Amelia Perry, who provided a loving, nurturing home for Rick and his older sister Amelia. Ray and Amelia Perry started out as tenant farmers, providing a modest upbringing for their children. Rick Perry grew up without indoor plumbing the first five years of his life, wore clothes hand-sewn by his mother, and was even bathed in a number 2 washtub as a young boy. Perry was one of 13 students in the Paint Creek Rural School's Class of 1968. He played six-man football, worked on his family farm, and devoted himself to the Boy Scouts, earning the rank of Eagle while in his teens.
Perry was among the first generation in his family to attend college, enrolling at Texas A&M University in the fall of 1968. He joined the Fightin' Texas Aggie Corps of Cadets and was elected twice to serve as an Aggie Yell Leader. Perry graduated in August 1972 with a bachelor's degree in Animal Science.
Upon graduation, Perry took a commission in the United States Air Force, flying C-130 tactical aircraft to destinations around the globe, including South America, Europe and the Middle East. In 1977, Perry was honorably discharged from the Air Force with the rank of Captain, and he returned home to the family farm, where they grew dryland cotton, milo and wheat. During the next few years, Perry would become one of millions of conservative Reagan Democrats, and marry his high school sweetheart, Anita Thigpen, 16 years after their first date.
In 1983, Rick and Anita Perry welcomed a son, Griffin, and their daughter Sydney arrived in 1986. It was in 1984 that Perry set his sights on public office, running to represent his rural neighbors in the Texas House. Perry would serve three terms in the House, ultimately switching to the Republican Party toward the end of his final term, and taking the bold step of running statewide against populist Democrat Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower. Perry upset Hightower in 1990 and easily won re-election in 1994.
In 1998, Perry defeated his former Aggie classmate and the strongest Democrat on the ticket, John Sharp, in a close contest for lieutenant governor. Perry became governor in December 2000 after Governor George W. Bush resigned his office weeks before becoming President. Perry has since won three full terms as governor, vanquishing billionaire Democrat Tony Sanchez by 18 points in 2002, defeating a four-candidate field with a nine-point gap over the second place finisher in 2006, and defeating both Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison by 21 points in the 2010 primary and popular Houston Mayor Bill White by 13 points in the 2010 general election.
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