Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Tom Ridge (2003–2005): Secretary of Homeland Security

Thomas J. Ridge was born in 1945 in Munhall, Pennsylvania. He earned a B.A. in government studies from Harvard University in 1967 and a J.D. from Dickinson College School of Law in 1972.

From 1968 to 1970, Ridge served in Vietnam as an infantry staff sergeant in the United States Army and earned the Bronze Star for valor. In 1972, he became assistant district attorney of Erie County, Pennsylvania, a post he held for ten years, until he became a United States Representative (R-PA) in 1983. He served in the House of Representatives for six terms, leaving Congress to become Pennsylvania’s governor in 1995.

Ridge remained in the governor’s mansion until 2001, when President George W. Bush tapped him to become the first assistant to the President for homeland security. In 2002, President Bush nominated Thomas J. Ridge to become the first secretary of the newly created Department of Homeland Security. Tom Ridge assumed this position on January 24, 2003.

Ridge announced his resignation after the 2004 presidential election. President Bush nominated Michael Chertoff to succeed Ridge in January 2005.