Born in West Virginia and raised in Virginia, Senator Tom Carper attended The Ohio State University on a Navy R.O.T.C. scholarship, graduating in 1968 with a B.A. in economics. He went on to complete five years of service as a naval flight officer, serve three tours of duty in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, and continued to serve in the Naval Reserve as a P-3 aircraft mission commander until retiring with the rank of captain in 1991 after 23 years of military service. With the war winding down in Southeast Asia, Tom Carper moved to Delaware in 1973 where he earned his M.B.A. at the University of Delaware.
His career in public service began in 1976 when he was elected to the first of three terms as Delaware's state treasurer at the age of 29 at a time when the state of Delaware had the worst credit rating of any state in America. Six years later, with that credit rating restored to a respectable "AA," he ran for – and was elected – to Delaware's at-large seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
After serving five terms as a U.S. congressman, where he earned a reputation as a results-oriented centrist, Tom Carper was elected the 78th governor of Delaware in 1992 and served two terms in that role. As governor, he pursued a common-sense agenda that led to eight balanced budgets, tax cuts in seven of those eight years, and major increases in employment. Governor Carper led the effort to strengthen the state's “rainy day” fund and boost Delaware's credit rating to "AAA" for the first time in state history, while helping to overhaul the state's education system and to implement welfare reform initiatives in Delaware and the nation.
During his second term as governor, Tom Carper was selected by his colleagues to serve as vice-chairman, then as chairman, of the National Governors' Association (NGA). After serving as chairman, he led the NGA's 'Center for Best Practices,' which focused on developing and implementing innovative solutions to policy challenges faced by governors across the nation. From 1994-1998, he served as a member of Amtrak's board of directors and, later, as founding vice-chairman of the American Legacy Foundation to combat youth smoking and as vice-chairman of Jobs for America's Graduates, a national non-profit to reduce high school dropouts.
On Jan. 3, 2001, Governor Carper stepped down two weeks early to become Delaware's junior senator. He was reelected in 2006, and with his reelection in November 2012 he has been elected to state-wide public office in Delaware 13 times. When Senator Joe Biden stepped down to become vice president in January 2009, Tom Carper became Delaware's senior senator.
During more than 30 years of public service, Senator Carper has worked tirelessly to develop practical solutions to real problems. His ability to work across party lines has earned him a reputation for consensus-building that is unique in today's political climate. The Washington Post's late David Broder calls him "a notably effective and non-partisan leader, admired and trusted on both sides of the aisle."