Sonny Perdue Biography

(31st United States Secretary of Agriculture (2017 - 2021))

Birthday: December 20, 1946 (Sagittarius)

Born In: Perry, Georgia, United States

American veterinarian, agribusiness entrepreneur, and politician Sonny Perdue served as the 31st United States Secretary of Agriculture from 2017 to 2021. After completing his education and military service, Perdue had worked as a vet, before starting a string of businesses. He later stepped into politics and became a Member of the Georgia State Senate from the 18th district. Though he won this position as a Democrat, he later joined the Republican Party. He also served as the 81st Governor of Georgia and was then selected by Donald Trump as his Secretary of Agriculture. Raised on a farm in Georgia, Perdue used his first-hand experience while handling issues in the US Department of Agriculture. While as a governor, he focused on job creation and overturning a state budget deficit, as the Secretary of Agriculture, he made his department more customer-centric and data-driven. He now serves as the Chancellor of the University System of Georgia.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: George Ervin Perdue III

Age: 76 Years, 76 Year Old Males


Spouse/Ex-: Mary Ruff (m. 1972)

father: George Ervin Perdue Jr.

mother: Ophie Viola (Holt)

siblings: Betty Gocken

children: Dan Perdue, Jim Perdue, Lara Ghioto, Leigh Perdue Brett

Born Country: United States

Political Leaders American Men

Notable Alumni: University Of Georgia College Of Veterinary Medicine

U.S. State: Georgia

More Facts

education: University Of Georgia College Of Veterinary Medicine

Childhood, Early Life & Education

George Ervin Perdue III, better known as Sonny Perdue, was born on December 20, 1946, in Perry, Georgia, US. His mother, Ophie Viola (Holt), was an English teacher who had taught for over four decades, while his father, George Ervin Perdue Jr., was a farmer. Former US Senator David Perdue is his first cousin.

Perdue was raised on the dairy and row crop farm that his family owned in Bonaire, Georgia, and even served as a farm help, feeding cows or ploughing the fields, in his younger days. Since childhood, friends and family called him Sonny, a name he later used in his political career, too.

At the Warner Robins High School, Perdue played quarterback. At the University of Georgia, the athletically gifted Perdue was a walk-on.

He was also part of the Beta-Lambda chapter of the Kappa Sigma fraternity. Perdue obtained his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in 1971.

From 1971 to 1974, he served in the US Air Force, eventually rising to the rank of Captain. He initially worked as a veterinarian in North Carolina and then started a small business. Later, he launched more businesses, focusing on agriculture and transportation. It is believed, his successful career in agribusiness, that later expanded to south-eastern US, had been crucial in his success as a governor and as the US Secretary of Agriculture.

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Political Career

Sonny Perdue was part of the Houston County Planning and Zoning Board in the 1980s, and contested for the Georgia State Senate in 1990. In January 1991, he became a member of the Georgia State Senate from the 18th district and served in the position till 2002.

Interestingly, though he had won the state senate election as a Democrat, he joined the Republican Party in April 1998. As a state senator, Perdue had gained a reputation for solving complex problems. He was an expert in issues such as agriculture, education, transportation, new technologies, and economic development.

In 2001, he left the State Senate to start his campaign for the Governor’s position. His campaign was geared toward gaining public trust in the state government and making all Georgians empowered. He also promised to bring in new businesses and thus create jobs to Georgia and to improve the quality of programs for children.

In November 2002, Sonny Perdue was elected the Governor of Georgia, after defeating incumbent Roy Barnes. In January 2003, he took over his duties as the 81st Governor of Georgia. He thus scripted history as the first Georgia governor from the Republican Party since Benjamin Conley in 1870s.

In November 2006, he was re-elected as governor, after defeating both Lieutenant Governor Mark Taylor and Libertarian candidate Garrett Michael Hayes. He continued in the position till 2011.

In 2009, the Innovators in Action magazine of the Reason Foundation recognized him as an effective leader. Governing magazine named him as one of their eight Public Officials of the Year in October 2010.

As a governor, he worked on reforming the state budget, setting clear goals, and reducing unnecessary expenditure. He stimulated the economy of Georgia and turned the state budget deficit to a significant surplus.

His reforms helped employers gain profit and manufacturers and agricultural producers set new records in terms of exports. In his first term, Perdue helped Georgia create over 200,000 new jobs. During this time, Georgia also had the highest number of graduates in the history of the state and set new records in terms of SAT scores.

On January 18, 2017, former President Donald Trump selected Perdue as the US Secretary of Agriculture, as part of his cabinet. His nomination was approved by the US Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry in March that year, whereas his appointment was approved by the US Senate in April.

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On April 25, 2017, he assumed his duties as the 31st United States Secretary of Agriculture. During his tenure, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) became more fact-based, data-driven, and customer-centric.

In his capacity, he worked according to his four guiding principles: to focus the on ability of the American agricultural sector to create jobs, sell food, and supply food and clothing to the world; to focus on customer service; to make sure that the US food supply meets all safety standards and provides food security to people; and to maintain a healthy connection with the natural resources that provide for the agricultural industry.

Moreover, Sonny Perdue believed American agriculture requires a strong advocate to promote it in the international markets. The US produces more than its people can consume, which means the surplus should be available for trade around the world, and that is what Perdue worked to achieve.

Perdue recognized the importance of the relationship between the USDA and its representatives for trade around the world. Known as a national leader in the domain of agriculture, he also served on the board of the National Grain & Feed Association and was the president of the Georgia Feed and Grain Association and the Southeastern Feed and Grain Association.

Perdue has also been associated with the American Farm Bureau leadership and was recognized as an effective agricultural leader by the Georgia 4-H and FFA programs. As someone who belongs to Georgia, a state where agriculture is the economic base, Perdue believes agriculture is a subject that is non-partisan and universal. He served as the Secretary of Agriculture till January 20, 2021.

Personal Life

Sonny Perdue married Mary Ruff Perdue in 1972, after a four-year courtship. Mary is from Atlanta, Georgia. The couple has four children, Leigh, Lara, Jim, and Dan, and 14 grandchildren: eight girls and six boys.

Perdue and his wife have also served as foster parents to eight new-borns waiting to be adopted. The couple lives in Bonaire, Georgia.

The couple has also been part of the First Baptist Church of Woodstock and have conducted a Sunday school class for young couples, stressing on the importance of long-lasting marriages.

Perdue is a sports lover and loves flying. Though he is a licensed airplane and helicopter pilot, in 2003, he was charged with flying a state helicopter without a valid license.

Other Achievements

In 2006, while serving as a governor, Sonny Perdue appeared in a cameo role as the coach of the East Carolina Pirates football team in the 2006 sports biography film We Are Marshall.

Since April 2022, he has also been the serving as the 14th Chancellor of the University System of Georgia.

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