Mike Gravel is a former U.S. senator from Alaska, known for his efforts to end the draft during the Vietnam War and for releasing the Pentagon Papers.
Mike Gravel was born on May 13, 1930, in Springfield, Massachusetts. He graduated from Columbia University and was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives in 1963. In 1968, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he became known for his attempts to end the draft during the Vietnam War and for releasing the Pentagon Papers. Gravel ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. In March of that year, he left the Democrats and switched to the Libertarian Party. With little success in the elections, Gravel ultimately left elected office but remained politically active and championing his ideas through the years.
Former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel was born Maurice Robert Gravel on May 13, 1930, in Springfield, Massachusetts. The son of French-Canadian immigrants, Gravel attended French-speaking Catholic schools and spoke French exclusively until he was 7 years old. He worked in his father's construction business with his brothers until enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1951.
After his tour of duty, during which he served primarily in intelligence services, Gravel earned his B.S. in Economics from Columbia University. He drove a New York City cab to help put himself through school.
Speaker of the House and U.S. Senator
In the late 1950s, Mike Gravel moved to Alaska believing that in this remote state someone like him, without social or political connections, stood a chance of winning political races. He had success in real estate development and other sectors while biding his time before entering politics.
Gravel was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives in 1963, and served as its Speaker of the House from 1965 to 1966. In 1968, he was elected to the United States Senate, where he served two terms until 1981. As senator, Gravel served on the Finance, Interior and Environmental and Public Works committees. He became nationally known for his attempts to end the draft during the Vietnam War, releasing the Pentagon Papers into public record in 1971 and championing Congressional approval for the Trans-Alaska pipeline in 1973. Other positions Gravel has held include the decriminalization of drugs, supporting same-sex marriage, cutting military spending, increasing education spending, opposing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), abolishing the Internal Revenue Service, adding a carbon tax, closing the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and promoting a publicly-funded voucher-style health care system.
Later Political Career
After losing his bid for a third term in 1980, Gravel returned to the private sector where numerous failed business ventures and poor health beset him.
In 2006, Gravel announced his candidacy for the Democratic Party nomination in the 2008 presidential election in large part to promote direct democracy and the National Initiative. Though he gained a small loyal following, particularly online with his eccentric YouTube campaign, he was consistently low in the national polls. He switched to the Libertarian Party in March of 2008, but never gained to momentum to solidify a victory.
Mike Gravel is married to Whitney Stewart Gravel and has two children, Martin and Lynne, and four grandchildren. He is the author of Jobs and More Jobs, Citizen Power: A People's Platform, The Senator Gravel Edition: Pentagon Papers and A Political Odyssey.