Phil Gramm

Class of 1991

  • Former United States Senator State of Texas

America is not a great and powerful country because the most brilliant and talented people came to live here. America is great and powerful because it was here that ordinary people like you and me have had more opportunity and more freedom than any other people who ever lived on the face of the earth.

Phil Gramm was born in 1942 in Fort Benning, Georgia. Neither of his parents completed high school. His father was a career soldier who suffered a crippling stroke when Gramm was young, and remained an invalid until he died. To support the family, Gramm's mother returned to school and trained to become a nurse. As a boy, Gramm spent many listening to his father read to him. By the time Gramm entered first grade, his father had read to him Eisenhower's Crusade in Europe, H. G. Wells' Outline of History, and a whole series of books on the Civil War. Listening became a keen skill for Gramm, who never took a single note in graduate school.

Gramm worked his way through the University of Georgia. After his first year, he dropped out and took a job at the C&S Bank in Atlanta. For the next 18 months, he went to night school, took correspondence courses, saved money, and eventually returned to the university. He went on to earn a doctorate in economics, then spent the next 12 years, from 1967 to 1978, teaching economics at Texas A&M University until he became "increasingly worried by signs of governmental and special-interest strangulation of the economy."

In 1976, Gramm took a leave from Texas A&M to run for U.S. Senate in the Democratic primary. He lost, but two years later, he rebounded and captured a House seat, winning re-election in 1980 and 1982. However, in 1983, when he was stripped of his House Budget Committee seat after co-authoring the Reagan economic program, he resigned from Congress.

Gramm won re-election as a Republican that same year, the first Republican ever elected from the district. In 1984, Gramm was elected to the Senate, winning more votes than any candidate for statewide office had ever received in Texas history. In 1990, he was re-elected by a record 60 percent of the vote.

Gramm has written for economic journals and has authored two books: The Economics of Mineral Extraction (1980) and The Role of Government in a Free Society (1982). He served on the Senate Appropriations Committee; the Budget Committee; and the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee before retiring from public office in 2003.