Ronald Earnest Paul was born on August 20, 1935 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Paul’s family ran a small dairy farm in the state. His paternal grandfather emigrated from Germany. Paul was raised Lutheran.
In high school, Paul was an accomplished athlete, becoming the state champion for the 200-meter dash. Paul attended Gettysburg College, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology in 1957.
Paul then went into the medical field, earning a Doctor of Medicine degree from Duke University School of Medicine in 1961. He completed his medical internship at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, and his residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Magee-Women’s Hospital in his hometown of Pittsburgh. Paul served as a flight surgeon in the United States Air Force from 1963 to 1965, and then in the United States Air National Guard from 1965 to 1968. The Paul family then moved to Texas, where Ron opened a private practice in obstetrics and gynecology.
As a medical student in the 1960s, Paul was heavily influenced by the writings of libertarian and free-market thinkers, Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and Ayn Rand. After President Richard Nixon ended the U.S. dollar’s association with gold in 1971, Paul decided to enter politics, running as a Republican for U.S. Congress in the 22nd district. After a loss in 1974, Paul won an April 1976 special election for the vacant seat after a runoff. Paul served in Congress for three different periods, from 1976 to 1977, from 1979 to 1985, to 1997 to 2013.
In Congress, Paul served on the House Banking Committee, blaming high inflation rates on the Federal Reserve and criticizing the banking industry’s loan mismanagement that resulted in a financial crisis regarding loans and savings accounts. Paul consistently advocated for a return to the gold standard, also speaking out against the reinstatement of the military draft in 1980.
Paul founded the Foundation for Rational Economics and Education (FREE) during his first term in Congress, a non-profit dedicated to studying the principles of the free market and limited government. Paul was also the first chairman of the Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), a conservative group funded by the Koch brothers to fight for lower taxes and deregulation.
In 1984, Paul retired from the House of Representatives in order to run for the U.S. Senate in 1984. He was defeated in the Republican primary by Phil Gramm, a former Democrat who had switched to the Republican Party the previous year.
After retiring from Congress, Paul returned to medical practice until 1987, when he left the Republican Party to run for president as a Libertarian in the 1988 presidential election. Paul was on the ballot in 46 states, earning 432,179 votes in the race for the popular vote. After declining to run for president again in 1992, Paul endorsed Pat Buchanan against incumbent Republican President George H.W. Bush.
In 1996, Paul was re-elected to Congress in Texas’ 14th congressional district, despite not being endorsed by the Republican National Committee. Nolan Ryan, Steve Forbes, and Pat Buchanan endorsed Paul. Paul remained in Congress until he announced his intention to run for president in the 2012 presidential election.
In Congress, Paul served on the Committee on Financial Services, the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and was Chairman of the Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology beginning in 2011.
Paul officially retired from Congress on January 3, 2013 with the swearing in of the 113th Congress.
Paul ran for president again in 2008, this time running as a Republican, where his campaign attracted a large grassroots following and was popular on social media. Paul ultimately received 42,426 votes in the general election. After he ended his campaign, Paul refused to endorse either John McCain, the Republican nominee, or Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee. Paul ultimately endorsed Chuck Baldwin, the Constitution Party nominee.
Paul ran for president again in 2012, once again seeking the Republican nomination. Paul did well early on in the race, participating in the first few debates and earning public attention. He ended his campaign for president months before the election, later refusing to endorse Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Paul received 26,204 write-in votes in the general election.
When Paul ran for president in 2008 and 2012, his popularity created what came to be known as the “Liberty Movement,” the growth of which coincided with the emergence of the “Tea Party,” a movement of grassroots conservatives, libertarians and independents concerned about government growth and spending.
In terms of his political positions regarding foreign policy and national defense, Paul is non-interventionist, being the only 2008 Republican candidate to vote against the Iraq War Resolution in 2002. Paul supports withdrawal from the United Nations and from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, maintaining his support for strong national sovereignty.
Domestically, Paul opposes the Patriot Act and all forms of gun control. He also believes that the Supreme Court has used separation of church and state wrongly, arguing that it has been used to uphold court decisions that allow the federal government to intrude upon the religious liberty of its citizens.
Paul is a free market economist, favoring Austrian economics. Paul has consistently voted against nearly all proposals that would increase government spending or taxes. Paul also favors the elimination of most government agencies.
On social issues, Paul is strongly pro-life, introducing the Sanctity of Life Act in 2005 as a counter to Roe v. Wade. Paul opposes the Federal War on Drugs, capital punishment, and the federal government’s role in issues like marriage and education.
In the 2016 presidential election, Paul endorsed his son, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul for the Republican nomination. He received one electoral vote from a faithless elector in 2016, becoming the oldest person to ever receive an electoral vote.
Paul has been married to Carol Wells since 1957, and they have five children: Ronald, Lori, Randall, Robert, and Joy.