Early life and career
Michael Richard Pence was born June 7, 1959, in Columbus, Indiana, one of six children of Nancy Jane (née Cawley) and Edward Joseph Pence Jr., who ran a group of gas stations. His father served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and received the Bronze Star in 1953, which Pence displays in his office along with its commendation letter and a reception photograph. His family were Irish Catholic Democrats. Pence was named after his grandfather, Richard Michael Cawley, who emigrated from County Sligo, Ireland, to the United States through Ellis Island, following an aunt and his brother James, and became a bus driver in Chicago, Illinois. His maternal grandmother's parents were from Doonbeg, County Clare.
Pence graduated from Columbus North High School in 1977. He earned a BA degree in history from Hanover College in 1981, and a JD degree from the Indiana University's Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis in 1986. While at Hanover, Pence joined the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, where he became the chapter president. Actor Woody Harrelson has said that he knew Pence while both were students at Hanover. After graduating from Hanover, Pence was an admissions counselor at the college from 1981 to 1983.
In his childhood and early adulthood, Pence was a Roman Catholic and a Democrat. He volunteered for the Bartholomew County Democratic Party in 1976 and voted for Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential election, and has stated that he was originally inspired to get involved in politics by people such as John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. While in college, Pence became an evangelical, born-again Christian, to the great disappointment of his mother. His political views also started shifting to the right during this time in his life, something which Pence attributes to the "common-sense conservatism of Ronald Reagan" that he began to identify with.
After graduating from law school in 1986, Pence was an attorney in private practice. He ran unsuccessfully for a congressional seat in 1988 and in 1990. In 1991, he became the president of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, a self-described free-market think tank and a member of the State Policy Network, a position he held until 1993.
Shortly after his first congressional campaign in 1988, radio station WRCR-FM in Rushville, Indiana hired Pence to host a weekly half-hour radio show, Washington Update with Mike Pence. In 1992, Pence began hosting a daily talk show on WRCR, The Mike Pence Show, in addition to a Saturday show on WNDE in Indianapolis. Pence called himself "Rush Limbaugh on decaf" since he considered himself politically conservative while not as outspoken as Limbaugh. Beginning on April 11, 1994, Network Indiana syndicated The Mike Pence Show statewide. With a 9 a.m. to noon (ET) time slot, the program reached as many as 18 radio stations in Indiana, including WIBC in Indianapolis. Pence ended his radio show in September 1999 to focus on his 2000 campaign for Congress, which he eventually won. From 1995 to 1999, Pence hosted a weekend public affairs TV show also titled The Mike Pence Show on Indianapolis TV station WNDY.