Following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, Thomas (Tom) Ridge became the first Director of the Office of Homeland Security. On January 24, 2003, Ridge became the first Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
During his tenure, Ridge worked with more than 180,000 employees from a combined 22 components to come together as one agency to strengthen our borders, provide for intelligence analysis and infrastructure protection, improve the use of science and technology to counter weapons of mass destruction, and to create a comprehensive response and recovery division. Ridge served the nation’s first Secretary of Homeland Security until February 1, 2005.
Ridge was twice elected Governor of Pennsylvania, serving from 1995 to 2001. He kept his promise to make Pennsylvania "a leader among states and a competitor among nations." Governor Ridge's aggressive technology strategy helped fuel the state's advances in the priority areas of economic development, education, health and the environment.
Born Aug. 26, 1945, in Pittsburgh's Steel Valley, Governor Ridge was raised in a working class family in veterans' public housing in Erie. He earned a scholarship to Harvard, graduating with honors in 1967. After his first year at The Dickinson School of Law, he was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he served as an infantry staff sergeant in Vietnam, earning the Bronze Star for Valor. After returning to Pennsylvania, he earned his law degree and was in private practice before becoming assistant district attorney in Erie County. He was elected to Congress in 1982. He was the first Congressman to have served as an enlisted man in the Vietnam War, and was overwhelmingly re-elected five times.
Ridge’s official portrait was unveiled at DHS Headquarters in Washington, D.C. on May 23, 2013.