Early life and education
Cheney was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, the son of Marjorie Lorraine (née Dickey) and Richard Herbert Cheney. He is of predominantly English, as well as Welsh, Irish, and French Huguenot ancestry; Cheney's 8th great-grandfather, William Cheney, immigrated from England to Massachusetts in the 17th century. Although not a direct descendant, he is collaterally related to Benjamin Pierce Cheney (1815–1895), the early American expressman. Cheney is a very distant cousin of both Harry S. Truman and Barack Obama; the three share a common ancestor in Mareen Duvall, a Huguenot who fled from France to England in the 17th century and later settled in Maryland. His father was a soil conservation agent for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and his mother was a softball star in the 1930s; Cheney was one of three children.
He attended Calvert Elementary School before his family moved to Casper, Wyoming, where he attended Natrona County High School.
He attended Yale University, but by his own account had problems adjusting to the college, and dropped out. Among the influential teachers from his days in New Haven was Professor H. Bradford Westerfield, whom Cheney repeatedly credited with having helped to shape his approach to foreign policy. He later attended the University of Wyoming, where he earned both a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in political science. He subsequently started, but did not finish, doctoral studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
In November 1962, at the age of 21, Cheney was convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI). He was arrested for DWI again the following year. Cheney said that the arrests made him "think about where I was and where I was headed. I was headed down a bad road if I continued on that course".
In 1964, he married Lynne Vincent, his high school sweetheart, whom he had met at age 14.
When Cheney became eligible for the draft, during the Vietnam War, he applied for and received five draft deferments. In 1989, The Washington Post writer George C. Wilson interviewed Cheney as the next Secretary of Defense; when asked about his deferments, Cheney reportedly said, "I had other priorities in the '60s than military service". Cheney testified during his confirmation hearings in 1989 that he received deferments to finish a college career that lasted six years rather than four, owing to sub-par academic performance and the need to work to pay for his education. Upon graduation, Cheney was eligible for the draft, but at the time, the Selective Service System was not inducting married men. On October 6, 1965, the draft was expanded to include married men without children; Cheney's first daughter, Elizabeth, was born 9 months and two days later. Cheney's fifth and final deferment granted him "3-A" status, a "hardship" deferment available to men with dependents. In January 1967, Cheney turned 26 and was no longer eligible for the draft.