Pete Wilson

Pete Wilson
Pete Wilson meeting with Les Aspin, Feb 3, 1993 - cropped to Wilson.JPEG
36th Governor of California
In office
January 7, 1991 – January 4, 1999
Preceded byGeorge Deukmejian
Succeeded byGray Davis
United States Senator
from California
In office
January 3, 1983 – January 7, 1991
Preceded byS. I. Hayakawa
Succeeded byJohn Seymour
29th Mayor of San Diego
In office
December 6, 1971 – January 3, 1983
Preceded byFrancis Earl Curran
Succeeded byBill Cleator (acting)
Member of the California State Assembly
from the 76th district
In office
January 3, 1967 – January 7, 1971
Preceded byClair Burgener
Succeeded byBob Wilson
Personal details
BornPeter Barton Wilson
(1933-08-23) August 23, 1933 (age 85)
Lake Forest, Illinois, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
  • Betty Robertson
    (m. 1968; div. 1981)
  • Gayle Edlund (m. 1983)
Alma mater
Military service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service1955–1958

Peter Barton Wilson (born August 23, 1933) is an American politician. A member of the Republican Party, he served as a United States Senator and as the 36th Governor of California.

Born in Lake Forest, Illinois, Wilson graduated from the UC Berkeley School of Law after serving in the United States Marine Corps. He established a legal practice in San Diego and campaigned for Republicans such as Richard Nixon and Barry Goldwater. Wilson won election to the California State Assembly in 1966 and became the Mayor of San Diego in 1971. He held that office until 1983, when he became a member of the United States Senate.

In the Senate, Wilson supported the Strategic Defense Initiative and the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, while he opposed the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990. He resigned from the Senate after winning the 1990 California gubernatorial election. As governor, he signed a three-strikes law and supported energy deregulation and term limits. He was also an advocate for California Proposition 187, which established a state-run citizenship screening system with the intention of preventing illegal immigrants from using social services. He sought the presidential nomination in the 1996 Republican primaries but quickly dropped out of the race.

Wilson retired from public office after serving two terms as governor. Since leaving office, he has worked for several businesses and has been affiliated with several other organizations. He is a distinguished visiting fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution. Wilson also co-chaired Arnold Schwarzenegger's successful 2003 gubernatorial campaign.

Early life

Peter Barton Wilson was born on August 23, 1933, in Lake Forest, Illinois, a suburb north of Chicago. His parents were James Boone Wilson and Margaret (Callaghan) Wilson.[1] His father sold college fraternity jewelry to work his way through University of Illinois, and later became a successful advertising executive. The Wilson family settled in St. Louis, Missouri when Pete was in elementary school. He then attended the private, non-sectarian preparatory middle school John Burroughs (grades 7–9) in Ladue, and then St. Louis Country Day School, an exclusive private high school, where he won an award in his senior year for combined scholarship, athletics, and citizenship. In the fall of 1951, Pete Wilson enrolled at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, where he received a United States Navy Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship, majored in English, and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree. In his junior year he elected to join the Marine Corps upon his graduation.

After graduating from Yale, Wilson served for three years in the United States Marine Corps as an infantry officer, eventually becoming a platoon leader. Upon completion of his Marine Corps service, Wilson earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law.

In 1962, while working as an Advance Man for the Republican gubernatorial candidate Richard M. Nixon, Wilson got to know Herb Klein, one of Nixon's top aides. Klein suggested that Wilson might do well in Southern California politics, so in 1963, Wilson moved to San Diego.

After passing the bar exam, Wilson began his practice as a criminal defense attorney in San Diego, but he found such work to be low-paying and personally repugnant. He later commented to the Los Angeles Times, "I realized I couldn't be a criminal defense lawyer – because most of the people who do come to you are guilty." Wilson switched to a more conventional law practice and continued his activity in local politics, working for Barry Goldwater's unsuccessful presidential campaign in 1964. Wilson's liking for politics and managing the day-to-day details of the political process was growing. He put in long hours for the Goldwater campaign, earning the friendship of local Republican boosters so necessary for a political career, and in 1966, at the age of thirty-three, he ran for, and won a seat in the California State Assembly, succeeding Clair Burgener.

Wilson was re-elected to the Assembly in 1968 and 1970, and in 1971 was elected mayor of San Diego.

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