Tom Ridge was born in the Pittsburgh suburb of Munhall in Pennsylvania. His family moved to Erie in the west of the state in 1948 when he was 3. His parents were politically active -- his father a Democrat, his mother a Republican.
He graduated from local Catholic schools, worked summers as a union laborer and attended Harvard University on a scholarship. He graduated with honors in 1967 and enrolled in Dickinson Law School before being drafted at the end of his first year. Ridge saw combat as an enlisted man in Vietnam
Ridge was successful in his first bid for Congress in 1982 and served 12 years. He was elected governor in 1994 and re-elected handily in 1998. He was legally barred from running again when his term expired in 2002.
His social agenda included welfare reform and a special legislative session on crime that gave birth to a three-strikes law and a faster death-penalty process.
President Bush selected Ridge to head the Office of Homeland Security in 2001, and he was elevated to the position of secretary of the newly-created Homeland Security Department in 2003.
Ridge and his wife, Michele, have two adoptive children.