Leadership Summit Biography   

Sonny Perdue

April 11, 2003
Leadership Summit
Kennesaw State University

Speaker: Sonny Perdue
Governor of Georgia

Perdue lecture

Sonny Perdue biography

Gov. Sonny Perdue has proudly served his local community, Middle Georgia, his state and the nation for his entire adult life. He has been a businessman, community leader, Sunday school teacher, state senator, majority leader and president pro tempore of the Georgia Senate, as well as an officer in the United States Air Force.

Perdue was born Dec. 20, 1946, in Perry, Ga., to a lifelong farmer and a classroom teacher. He attended Warner Robins High School and earned a doctorate in veterinary medicine in 1971 from the University of Georgia. Prior to being admitted to veterinary school, he played football at UGA. While still in school he volunteered to serve his country in the United States Air Force where he honed his flying skills, earning instrument, flight instructor and multi-engine ratings. A licensed pilot for more than 30 years, Perdue has enjoyed traveling the state in his single-engine Bellanca Super Viking.

Following his honorable discharge from the Air Force in 1974 with the rank of captain and a brief tenure as a practicing veterinarian in Raleigh, N.C., Perdue returned to his native Georgia and became a successful small-business owner. He started two businesses from the ground up, concentrating on agribusiness and transportation. Today, those businesses have grown to include several locations across the Southeast.

Perdue was already a dedicated leader in his church and his community when he decided to enter public service. After serving on the Houston County Planning and Zoning Board during the 1980s, Sonny caught the attention of local community leaders and was asked to run for the Georgia Senate. He won, and spent the next 11 years representing the people of Houston, Bibb, Bleckley and Pulaski counties in the General Assembly
In a time of increasing apathy toward politicians and policymakers, Sonny Perdue never forgot that his job was to serve the people, not to play politics. During his tenure, his reputation as a skilled listener, patient decision maker and tireless worker earned him the bipartisan respect of his colleagues. As a result, he rose quickly to leadership positions. After only four years in the Senate, Perdue was selected by his peers to fill the post of majority leader. In 1997, Democratic and Republican senators elected him president pro tempore, another testament to his expertise as one of Georgia's most effective consensus builders.

As a state senator, he was often praised for tackling issues when no one else had the courage to do so and for his ability to grasp the nuances of complex problems. Perdue was recognized as a leading authority on numerous issues including agriculture, transportation, education, emerging technologies and economic development.

Perdue is married to the former Mary Ruff of Atlanta. The couple has four children: Leigh, a speech therapist; Lara, a software consultant; Jim, a UGA graduate who currently attends Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.; and Dan, an undergraduate student at Middle Georgia College. They also have twin granddaughters, Mary Kate and Sunni. In addition, Mary and Sonny serve as foster parents for newborns awaiting adoption.