1991 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"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. He remained an invalid until he died. To support the family, Gramm's mother returned to school and trained to become a nurse. Phil Gramm spent many hours as a youngster listening to his father read to him. By the time he 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 CNS Bank in Atlanta. For the next 18 months, he went to night school, took correspondence courses, saved up money, and with the GI Bill and his savings, returned to the university. He went on to earn a doctorate in economics. For the next 12 years, Gramm taught 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 his professorship to unsuccessfully run for the Senate in the Democratic primary. Two years later, he rebounded and captured a House seat as a Democrat. Gramm was re-elected to Congress in 1980 and 1982. In 1983, when he was stripped of his House Budget Committee seat after co-authoring the Reagan economic program, he resigned from Congress. He won re-election that same year, the first Republican ever elected from the district. In 1984, Gramm was elected to the U. S. Senate, winning more votes than any candidate for statewide office had ever received in the history of Texas, and in 1990 he was re-elected by a record 60 percent of the vote.
Gramm has written extensively in economic journals and is the author of two books, The Role of Government in a Free Society (1982), and The Economics of Mineral Extraction (1980). He serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Budget Committee and the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.
Always a believer in the boundless opportunities America offers, Gramm says, "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."