Thomas Richard 'Tom' Harkin (born November 19, 1939) is the junior United States Senator from Iowa (1985–present) and a member of the Democratic Party. He previously served in the United States House of Representatives (1975–1985). Born in Cumming, Iowa, Harkin graduated from Iowa State University and the The Catholic University of America's Columbus School of Law. He served in the United States Navy as an active-duty jet pilot from 1962 to 1967. After serving as a congressional aide for several years he made two runs for the U.S. House of Representatives, losing in 1972 but winning in 1974. He went on to serve five terms in the House. Harkin won a race for U.S. Senate in 1984 by a wide margin. He was an early frontrunner for his party's presidential nomination in 1992, but dropped out in support of eventual winner Bill Clinton. Now serving his fifth term, Harkin is chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. He is ranked as the most senior junior senator.
Harkin was born in Cumming, Iowa. His father, Patrick Harkin, an Irish Americanwas a coal miner and his mother, Frances, was a Slovene immigrant who died when he was ten.
He still maintains his childhood house, where he and his five siblings were raised without hot running water or a furnace.He attended Dowling Catholic High School which is currently located in West Des Moines, Iowa.Harkin attended Iowa State University on a Navy R.O.T.C. scholarship and was a member of Delta Sigma Phi fraternity. He graduated with a degree in government and economics in 1962, and served in the United States Navy as an active-duty jet pilot from 1962 to 1967. Harkin was stationed at Naval Air Facility Atsugi in Japan, where he ferried aircraft to and from the airbase that had been damaged in the Vietnam War and in operational and training accidents. He was also stationed for a time at Guantanamo Bay, where he flew missions in support of U-2 planes reconnoitering Cuba. After leaving active duty in 1967, he spent three years in the Ready Reserves, and transitioned into the Naval Reserves in 1970. He retired in 1989 with the rank of commander.
In 1969, Harkin moved to Washington, D.C., and began work as an aide to Democratic Congressman Neal Smith. During his work for Smith, he accoampanied a congressional delegation that went to South Vietnam in 1970. Harkin published photographs he took during the trip and a detailed account of the "tiger cages" at Con Son Island prison in Life Magazine on July 17, 1970. The account exposed shocking, inhumane conditions and treatment to which prisoners were subjected. He received his Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from The Catholic University of America's Columbus School of Law in 1972. In 1972, the same year that he graduated from law school, Harkin returned to Iowa and immediately ran against an incumbent Republican Congressman, William J. Scherle. Scherle represented the southwestern portion of Iowa, which (with one brief exception) had not elected a Democrat to Congress since the end of the Great Depression. While winning a higher percentage of votes than any of Scherle's previous opponents, Harkin nevertheless lost the race. After his 1972 defeat, Harkin practiced law in Ames before seeking a rematch against Scherle in 1974. In what was generally a bad year for Republicans due to the Watergate scandal, Harkin defeated Scherle by only 3,500 votes. He was reelected four more times from Iowa's 5th congressional district without serious difficulty.
Harkin has served in the Senate longer than any Democrat in Iowa's history, and only Neal Smith has served in Congress longer among Iowa Democrats.
Senator Harkin married Minnesota native Ruth Raduenz in 1968 and has two daughters: Amy, born in 1976, and Jenny, born in 1981. Ruth Harkin is an attorney and was one of the first women in the United States to be elected as a prosecutor when, in 1972, she was elected to the office of county attorney of Story County, Iowa. She served as a deputy counsel for the U.S. Department of Agriculture before joining the Washington lobbying firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, LLP, in 1983. In 1993, President Bill Clinton named her chairman and chief executive officer of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). Ruth Harkin left the government and became United Technologies' senior vice president for international affairs and government relations in April 1997, leading their Washington DC office. In 2002, Mrs. Harkin became a director of ConocoPhillips. Mrs. Harkin currently sits on the Iowa Board of Regents, the body responsible for overseeing the state's public universities.
June 9th, 2011