James Richard "Rick" Perry, the longest-serving governor in Texas history, was sworn in as the state's 47th chief executive on Dec. 21, 2000, replacing then-Gov. George W. Bush upon his ascendancy to the White House. Perry was elected to a four-year term in 2002 and re-elected in 2006 and 2010.
A fifth-generation Texan, Perry grew up on a tenant farm in Paint Creek, a rural hamlet about 50 miles north of Abilene in the West Texas plains. His father, Ray, who had been a World War II tail gunner, served as a Haskell County commissioner and a school board member.
Perry graduated from Texas A&M University in 1972 and served in the U.S. Air Force until 1977, flying C-130s in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East.
He first met his wife, Anita Thigpen, at a piano recital during their elementary school years. They married in 1982 and are the parents of two grown children, Griffin and Sydney.
As governor of Texas, Perry has transformed the office. His long tenure has allowed him to make more than 4,000 appointments across the broad spectrum of Texas agencies and commissions, often to contributors and political allies, arguably making him the most powerful governor Texas has had. His record reveals a strongly pro-business social conservative who frequently cites his Christian faith. His early acknowledgement of the Tea Party, well ahead of most other mainstream Republicans, was seen as prescient. His major missteps as governor -- support of the Trans Texas Corridor and the HPV vaccine – are exceptions to his reputation for political sure-footedness. His relatively moderate stance on immigration — granting children of illegal immigrants in-state tuition at state colleges, for example — became an early source of trouble in his failed presidential bid.
On Aug. 13, 2011, Perry announced his candidacy for president in Charleston, S.C., at the Red State Gathering, an annual gathering of conservative bloggers. Perceived as a strong conservative alternative to perceived front-runner Mitt Romney, he quickly surged to the top of polls both nationwide and in the early caucus and primary states. Money flowed into his campaign, much of it from Texas, helping him make up for his relatively late entry into the campaign.
A series of gaffes and several poor performances in the GOP debates, culminating in his now-famous “Oops” moment at a CNBC debate in Michigan, sent voters in search of another candidate to carry the conservative torch. After a dismal fifth-place showing in the Iowa caucuses, Perry announced he was reassessing his campaign, widely taken as code for dropping out of the race. Early the next morning, after apparently consulting his family but not his staff, he tweeted his resolve to carry his campaign into South Carolina. His campaign had decided to bypass New Hampshire, the first primary of the season, and only took part in debates there. Perry’s sixth-place finish there, along with support flowing to every other “Not Romney” candidate in succession, finally spelled the end of his campaign, which he announced in South Carolina on Jan. 19, 2012, endorsing Newt Gingrich.
Perry returned to Texas amid speculation about his power base in the state and his viability as a future candidate. His political future may be cloudy, but most close observers point out his current term doesn’t expire until 2014 — an eternity in politics.