12 things to know about Mitch McConnell

What fraternity did he belong to? Whom did he write his senior college thesis on? Hint: It was another Kentucky senator.

  • Born on Feb. 20, 1942, to Addison Mitchell McConnell and Julia Shockley in Tuscumbia, Ala. They moved to Louisville, Ky., at age 13.
  • Contracted polio at age 2 but overcame it with the unflagging help of his mother. 
  • Graduated from the University of Louisville with a political science degree. He was president of the student council and member of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity. He got a law degree from the University of Kentucky College of Law.
  • Joined the US Army Reserve in 1967 but was discharged after six months because of an eye condition.
  • Was a summer intern for Kentucky GOP Sen. John Sherman Cooper and later worked as an aide to Sen. Marlow Cook, both moderates. He served as assistant attorney general in the Ford administration before returning to Kentucky to be judge executive of Jefferson County in 1978.
  • Elected to the US Senate in 1984, the only Republican to unseat a Democratic incumbent senator that year.
  • Garnered a reputation as a tough opponent of limits on campaign spending, which earned him the nickname “Darth Vader” among reformers.
  • Showed a willingness to compromise over issues such as homeland security and prisoner interrogation after 9/11.
  • Tilted more conservative after becoming Senate minority leader in 2007, a process that accelerated with the tea party-fueled takeover of the House in 2010. He backed the House’s ban on earmarks and clashed with the White House over the debt ceiling.
  • Married to Elaine Chao, who was President George W. Bush’s Labor secretary. He has three daughters from a previous marriage.
  • Played baseball as a youth, and, to this day, remains an avid University of Louisville sports fan. 
  • Wrote his senior college thesis on Henry Clay, the Kentucky senator and statesman known as the “Great Compromiser,” who is one of his heroes.
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