Sonny Perdue

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Sonny Perdue
Sonny Perdue at rally.jpg
United States Secretary of Agriculture
Taking office
President Donald Trump
Succeeding Michael Scuse (Acting)
81st Governor of Georgia
In office
January 13, 2003 – January 10, 2011
Lieutenant Mark Taylor
Casey Cagle
Preceded by Roy Barnes
Succeeded by Nathan Deal
Member of the Georgia Senate
from the 18th district
In office
Preceded by Ed Barker
Succeeded by Ross Tolleson
Personal details
Born George Ervin Perdue III
(1946-12-20) December 20, 1946 (age 70)
Perry, Georgia, U.S.
Political party Republican (1998–present)
Democratic (Before 1998)
Spouse(s) Mary Ruff
Education University of Georgia (BS, DVM)
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Air Force
Years of service 1971–1974
Rank US military captain's rank.gif Captain
*Pending Senate confirmation

George Ervin "Sonny" Perdue III[1] (born December 20, 1946) is an American politician who served as the 81st Governor of Georgia from 2003 to 2011. Upon his inauguration in January 2003, he became the first Republican Governor of Georgia since Reconstruction.[2]

Perdue currently serves on the Governors’ Council of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, DC, and is President Donald Trump's nominee for U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.[2] If confirmed, Perdue would only be the second Secretary of Agriculture from the Deep South. The first was Mike Espy of Mississippi, who served under President Bill Clinton from January 1993 to December 1994.

Early life and education[edit]

Perdue was born in Perry, Georgia, the son of Ophie Viola (Holt), a teacher, and George Ervin Perdue, Jr., a farmer.[1][3] He grew up and still lives in Bonaire, an unincorporated area between Perry and Warner Robins. Perdue has been known as Sonny since childhood and prefers to be called by that name; he was sworn in and signs official documents as "Sonny Perdue". Perdue is the first cousin of U.S. Senator David Perdue.[4]

Perdue played quarterback at Warner Robins High School and was a walk-on at the University of Georgia,[5] where he was also a member of the Beta-Lambda chapter of Kappa Sigma Fraternity.[6]

In 1971, Perdue earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine and worked as a veterinarian before becoming a small business owner, eventually starting three small businesses.[7][8]

Perdue is not related to the family that owns and operates Perdue Farms (commonly associated with "Perdue Chicken"). [9][10]


Perdue and other U.S. state governors with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Perdue in 2007
Perdue with U.S. Navy sailors in October 2010.

Perdue served in the U.S. Air Force, rising to the rank of captain before being discharged.

State senator[edit]

After serving as a member of the Houston County Planning & Zoning Commission in the 1980s, Perdue ran for a seat in the Georgia General Assembly.[7] He defeated Republican candidate Ned Sanders in 1990 and succeeded Democratic incumbent Ed Barker as the Senator representing the 18th district.[11]

Perdue was elected in 1991, 1994, and 1996, serving as his party's leader in the Senate, from 1994 to 1997, and as president pro tempore.[12]

His committee assignments included Ethics, Finance & Public Utilities, Health & Human Services, Reapportionment and Economic Development, Tourism & Cultural Affairs.

He switched party affiliation from Democrat to Republican in 1998 and was re-elected to the Senate as a Republican. He also won re-election in 2000.

Governor of Georgia[edit]

2002 Georgia gubernatorial election[edit]

In December 2001, Perdue resigned as State Senator and devoted himself entirely to running for the office of Governor. He won the 2002 Georgia gubernatorial election, defeating Democratic incumbent Roy Barnes, 51% to 46%, with Libertarian candidate Garrett Michael Hayes taking 2% of the vote.[13] He became the first Republican governor of Georgia in over 130 years (Benjamin F. Conley).[2]

2006 Georgia gubernatorial election[edit]

In 2006, Perdue was re-elected to a second term in the 2006 Georgia gubernatorial election, winning nearly 58% of the vote. His Democratic opponent was Lieutenant Governor Mark Taylor. Libertarian Garrett Michael Hayes was also on the ballot.[14]

Cutting government waste[edit]

Perdue advocated reforms designed to cut waste in government, most notably the sale of surplus vehicles and real estate.[15] Prior to Perdue's becoming governor, no state agency had even compiled an inventory of what assets the state owned.[15]

Education reform[edit]

In education, Perdue promoted the return of most decision-making to the local level. After Perdue took office, in 2003 and 2004, Georgia moved up from last place in the country in SAT scores. Although it returned to last place in 2005,[16] Georgia rose to 49th place in 2006 in the combined math and reading mean score, including the writing portion added to the test that year.[17] In 2007, Georgia moved up to 46th place.[18] In 2008, Georgia moved up again, to 45th place.[19] Perdue also created additional opportunities for charter schools and private schools.[20]

2003 referendum on the State flag of Georgia[edit]

After Democratic Governor Roy Barnes replaced the 1956 state flag, which was adopted by Georgia to protest integration, because it featured a battle flag emblem of the Confederacy, Purdue promised in the 2002 election campaign that he would let the state's citizens vote to determine the State flag of Georgia.[21] The choices given to Georgian voters were a modified version of the First National Flag of the Confederate States of America with the Georgia State Seal prominently displayed inside a circle of 13 stars, or the version of the flag created in 2001 by the Roy Barnes administration. The design of the 2001 Georgian flag was widely unpopular, being derisively named the "Barnes flag", and the North American Vexillological Association deemed it the ugliest U.S. state flag.[22] Perdue disappointed some Georgians by not including the 1956 flag as a choice on the ballot despite his campaign promises to do so. However, Perdue was faced with a Democratic House that would not consider having the 1956 flag on the referendum due to its Confederate origins, and he needed support for a tobacco tax he wanted to pass to raise revenue.[23] Georgia voters chose the flag resembling the Confederate flag.[2]

2006 immigration enforcement law[edit]

In 2006, Governor Perdue signed a law that gave Georgia "some of the nation's toughest measures against illegal immigrants".[24] As a result, $140 million of crops went unharvested as illegal immigrants fled Georgia.[25][26]

2008 comments regarding African-Americans in the Confederacy[edit]

According to a March 5, 2008, proclamation by Perdue, "Among those who served the Confederacy were many African-Americans, both free and slave, who saw action in the Confederate armed forces in many combat roles. According to the Georgia government's website on Confederate History Month, they also participated in the manufacture of products for the war effort, built naval ships, and provided military assistance and relief efforts..."[27] The proclamation was criticized by historians for its historical inaccuracies,[28] although there were in fact African-Americans who served the Confederacy, both voluntarily and compulsory.[29]

2007 prayer for rain[edit]

On November 13, 2007, while Georgia suffered from one of the worst droughts in several decades, Perdue led a group of several hundred people in a prayer on the steps of the state Capitol. Perdue addressed the crowd, saying "We’ve come together here simply for one reason and one reason only: To very reverently and respectfully pray up a storm" and "God, we need you; we need rain".[30] Earlier that year, on June 28, 2007, Alabama Governor Bob Riley issued a proclamation declaring a week in July as "Days of Prayer for Rain" to "humbly ask for His blessings and to hold us steady in times of difficulty".[31]

Ready Georgia and the 2009 Georgia floods[edit]

In 2008, Governor Perdue worked with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency to implement Ready Georgia, a campaign to increase disaster preparedness throughout the state.[32] The next year, Georgia was affected by the 2009 Southeastern United States floods, which were the most severe floods in Georgia's recorded history.[33] The floods resulted in Perdue declaring a state of emergency in 17 counties.[34]

Opposition to environmental regulation[edit]

In 2004, Purdue sued the Environmental Protection Agency to block environmental regulations on reformulated gasoline.[35] In a 2014 editorial published by National Review, Perdue criticized attempts by "some on the left or in the mainstream media" to connect climate change to weather events. Perdue wrote that "liberals have lost all credibility when it comes to climate science because their arguments have become so ridiculous and so obviously disconnected from reality".[36]

Alleged conflicts of interest[edit]

In mid-2003, Perdue purchased 101 acres (0.41 km2) of land next to his Houston County home.[37] The land was adjacent to the 20,000-acre Oaky Woods preserve being sold by Weyerhaeuser.[37] The land was eventually sold to developers; however, the state was evaluating bidding on the property and keeping it as a reserve.[37] After the state dropped out of the bidding and the land was sold to developers, the value of Perdue's property more than doubled.[37] Perdue failed to disclose his ownership of the property in required financial disclosure forms.[37]

Unlike previous governors, Perdue did not put his assets into a blind trust once elected.[5]

Perdue bought $2 million worth of land near Disney World from a developer whom he had appointed to the state’s economic development board.[5]

In 2007, Purdue convinced a skeptical legislature to approve $19 million fishing tourism program he called Go Fish Georgia. Purdue then decided that the Go Fish Education Center would be built down the road from his home.[5]

Purdue signed a law that enabled him to defer $100,000 in taxable gains from the sale of land.[5]


Perdue was constitutionally ineligible to seek a third consecutive term as Governor in the 2010 Georgia gubernatorial election. In 2011, he founded Perdue Partners, which facilitates the export of U.S. goods and services.[38]

Perdue currently serves on the Governors’ Council of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, DC, and is President Donald Trump's nominee for U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.[2]

Electoral history[edit]

As State Senator[edit]

Senator 18th district, 1990
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Sonny Perdue 17,932 70.5
Republican Ned Sanders 7,451 29.5
Turnout 25,383
Democratic hold Swing
Senator 18th district, 1996
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Sonny Perdue (Incumbent) 28,920 100
Turnout 28,920
Democratic hold Swing
Senator 18th district, 1998
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Sonny Perdue (Incumbent) 24,543 100
Turnout 24,543
Republican hold Swing
Senator 18th district, 2000
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Sonny Perdue (Incumbent) 30,681 69.2
Democratic Miller Heath 13,647 30.8
Turnout 44,328
Republican hold Swing

As Governor of Georgia[edit]

Georgia gubernatorial election, 2002
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Sonny Perdue 1,041,677 51.4
Democratic Roy Barnes (Incumbent) 937,062 46.3
Libertarian Garrett Michael Hayes 47,122 2.3
Turnout 2,025,861
Republican gain from Democratic Swing
Georgia gubernatorial election, 2006
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Sonny Perdue (incumbent) 1,229,724 57.9 +6.5
Democratic Mark Taylor 811,049 38.2 -8.0
Libertarian Garrett Michael Hayes 81,412 3.8 +1.5
Turnout 2,102,185
Republican hold Swing

Personal life[edit]

Perdue and his wife, Mary (nee Ruff), were married in 1972 after dating for four years.[39] They have four children (Leigh, Lara, Jim, and Dan),[39] fourteen grandchildren (six boys and eight girls), and have also been foster parents for many children.[40] Perdue lives in Bonaire, Georgia.[41]

Perdue is an avid sportsman. He enjoys flying and, in a 2003 incident, was accused of flying a state helicopter without a license.[42]

In 2006, while still governor, Perdue made a cameo appearance as the coach of the East Carolina Pirates football team in the movie We Are Marshall, large portions of which were filmed in Georgia.[43]

In 2006, Perdue's financial disclosure forms revealed that he had a net worth of approximately $6 million and received compensation of $700,000 that year.[44]


  1. ^ a b "Sonny Perdue (b. 1946)". New Georgia Encyclopedia. 2016-08-25. Retrieved 2016-12-29. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Former Georgia governor tapped as Trump's agriculture secretary, sources say". NBC News. 18 January 2017. Retrieved 23 January 2017. 
  3. ^ "Ancestry of Sonny Perdue". Retrieved 2016-12-29. 
  4. ^ "Meet David Perdue—He Might Be Georgia's Next Senator". The Atlantic. 2014-05-21. Retrieved 2016-12-29. 
  5. ^ a b c d e James Salzer, Greg Bluestein and Shannon McCaffrey (January 19, 2017). "Trump taps Perdue as agriculture chief". Atlanta Journal Constitution. 
  6. ^ Kappa Sigma Fraternity: Prominent Alumni
  7. ^ a b National Governors Association: Sonny Perdue
  8. ^ TONY PUGH AND ANITA KUMAR (January 18, 2017). "Trump taps former Georgia governor for agriculture secretary". McClatchy. 
  9. ^,2668,78006749_79688147_93050140,00.html
  10. ^
  11. ^ Our Campaigns: GA Senate 18
  12. ^ Charles S. Bullock, III, The Georgia Political Almanac, The General Assembly 1993–94
  13. ^ "Official Results of the November 5, 2002 General Election". Georgia Secretary of State. Retrieved June 10, 2011. 
  14. ^ "Georgia Election Results". Georgia Secretary of State. Retrieved December 2, 2010. 
  15. ^ a b Bipartisan Policy: Sonny Purdue
  16. ^ Johnny Jackson (August 30, 2005). "Georgia SAT scores in the basement". Clayton News Daily. 
  17. ^ "Georgia climbs in SAT rankings despite drop in score". AccessWDUN. August 29, 2006. 
  18. ^ "State, local SAT scores slip". Early County News. September 5, 2007. 
  19. ^ "2008 SAT Results Highlight Need for Rigor" (Press release). Georgia Department of Education. August 26, 2008. 
  20. ^ Bill Crane (January 2011). "Georgia View: Sonny Perdue's Non-Legacy". GeorgiaTrend. 
  21. ^ Joshua Green (March 2004). "The Southern Cross". The Atlantic. 
  22. ^ Larry Copeland (March 2, 2004). "Georgia leaders try to skip controversy in flag vote". USA Today. 
  23. ^ Jim Galloway (January 19, 2017). "Tom Price, Kasim Reed, Sonny Perdue and the Art of the Georgia Deal". Atlanta Journal Constitution. 
  24. ^ "Georgia Enacts a Tough Law on Immigrants". Associated Press. New York Times. April 18, 2006. 
  25. ^ Benjamin Powell (May 17, 2012). "The Law Of Unintended Consequences: Georgia's Immigration Law Backfires". Forbes Magazine. 
  26. ^ Megan Mcardle (June 21, 2011). "Georgia's Harsh Immigration Law Costs Millions in Unharvested Crops". The Atlantic. 
  27. ^ The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader: The "Great Truth"
  28. ^ Josh Israel (January 2, 2017). "Trump could name Agriculture Secretary whose drought strategy was to pray for rain". Think Progress. 
  29. ^ John Stauffer (January 20, 2015). "Yes, There Were Black Confederates. Here's Why". The Root. 
  30. ^ Greg Bluestein (January 10, 2017). "That time Sonny Perdue prayed for rain". Atlanta Journal Constitution. 
  31. ^ Eric Zorn (July 6, 2007). "Drought stricken Alabama has a prayer for relief". Chicago Tribune. 
  32. ^ "About Us". Ready Georgia. Retrieved November 10, 2009. 
  33. ^ Edward Martin (September 24, 2009). "USGS Release: Atlanta Flooding Sets New Records". USGS. Retrieved September 27, 2009. 
  34. ^ "Gov. Sonny Perdue issues state of emergency for 17 Georgia counties". Savannah Now. September 21, 2009. 
  35. ^ Sonny Perdue (October 20, 2004). "Statement of Governor Sonny Perdue Regarding Court Ruling to Stay Transition to Reformulated Gasoline". State of Georgia. 
  36. ^ Sonny Perdue (May 8, 2014). "The Common Core Blame Game". National Review. 
  37. ^ a b c d e "Perdue fails to disclose '04 purchase of land". The Associated Press. 
  38. ^ HELENA BOTTEMILLER EVICH (January 18, 2017). "Trump to announce Sonny Perdue for Agriculture". Politico. 
  39. ^ a b Sandra D. Deal, Jennifer W. Dickey, Catherine M. Lewis. Memories of the Mansion: The Story of Georgia’s Governor’s Mansion. 
  40. ^ "Perdue's wife takes up cause". Athens Banner-Herald. March 1, 2003. 
  41. ^ "Agriculture secretary pick Perdue led big political change in Georgia". Star Tribune. January 25, 2017. 
  42. ^ "Official: Perdue flew copter without license". Athens Banner-Herald. April 29, 2003. 
  43. ^ "GOVERNOR PERDUE MAKES ACTING DEBUT IN "WE ARE MARSHALL"". State of Georgia. June 14, 2006. 
  44. ^ Tom Crawford (May 3, 2006). "Georgia's affluent candidates". 

See also[edit]

Georgia Senate
Preceded by
Ed Barker
Member of the Georgia Senate
from the 18th district

Succeeded by
Ross Tolleson
Party political offices
Preceded by
Guy Millner
Republican nominee for Governor of Georgia
2002, 2006
Succeeded by
Nathan Deal
Preceded by
Mitt Romney
Chair of the Republican Governors Association
Succeeded by
Rick Perry
Political offices
Preceded by
Roy Barnes
Governor of Georgia
Succeeded by
Nathan Deal