the long march of newt gingrich

A Newt Chronology

September 194216 year-old Kathleen "Kit" Daugherty marries 19 year-old Newton C. McPherson, Jr. a mechanic. Kit says marriage falls apart in three days.
June 17, 1943"Little Newtie" born. Pennsylvania.
1946Newt's mother Kit, now 19 , re-marries an Army officer, Robert Gingrich, who promptly adopts Newt.

Bob Gingrich serves in Korea and Vietnam during Newt's childhood and adolescence. Newt has close bond to his mother. In early years, also spends a lot of time with Newt McPherson's sister Loma and her husband and, with his grandmother, a teacher, who taught toddler Newt how to read.

195310 year-old Newt loves reading and animals. Takes a bus to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to lobby the mayor to open a city zoo. He gets written up in the local paper.
1954Father buys Newt an Encyclopedia Americana which he reads night after night.
1956Gingrich family moves to Europe -- Orleans, France and Stuttgart, Germany. Height of Cold War.
1958Newt's "epiphany" at Verdun, France. At age 15, he visits the battle site and says later this changed his life. Decides to become a politician who will prevent such carnage.
1960Family moves to Fort Benning, Columbus, Georgia. Newt enters Baker High School. He's a "little adult" -- smart, thick glasses, socially awkward. Not good at sports. Makes first close friend, Jim Tilton, and runs Tilton's successful campaign for student body president. Friends say Newt is already talking about his plans to become Speaker of the House. Vows to marry his geometry teacher, Jackie Battley.
1961Newt graduates from high school. He's a debater, a National Merit Scholar semi-finalist, and is voted "Most Intellectual" by his classmates. He's secretly dating Jackie.
June 19, 1962Over his stepfather's objection, Newt marries Jackie. He's just finished his freshman year at Emory University in Atlanta. Their first child is born in 1963.
December 1965Newt graduates from Emory with a degree in history. In college he had started a Young Republican Club. Friends say he never discusses his past or personal life, just politics and the future.
1966-1970Tulane University, New Orleans. Newt gets a Ph.D. in history (1971) , although he prefers politics to academics. His thesis on education in the Belgian Congo is "nothing earth-shattering" and is never published. At Tulane, he indulges in mild counter-culture behavior, including a protest against the administration for banning "obscene" photos in the school paper. He becomes a fan of Alvin and Heidi Toffler and experiments with marijuana. Gets draft deferment because of school and children (flat feet and near-sightedness also probably would have kept him out).

Campaigns in 1968 for Nelson Rockefeller. Newt tells his Tulane thesis advisor that he wants a teaching job in Georgia to launch his political career.

1970At 27, begins teaching career at West Georgia College in Carrollton. He's ambitious: in his second year he tries to become chairman of the History Department. He's a popular teacher. Co-founds Environmental Studies and Future Studies programs.
1974At age 31, Newt makes his first bid for Congress against 20-year Democratic incumbent, Jack Flynt. The 6th congressional district is the Old South turning into the new suburban South. Newt campaigns as a reform Republican. Courts the black vote. His liberal colleagues from the college support Newt. Endorsed by League of Conservation Voters. He runs a surprisingly close race, capturing 48.5% of the vote, but loses during the Watergate scandal, a GOP disgrace. Newt's biological father 'Big Newt' dies of cancer at age 48.
1976Newt's second bid for Congress. Again runs as a reformer with environmentalists' backing. Runs well against Flynt. But loses (48.3%) --partly because local Democrat Jimmy Carter wins presidency and helps the Democratic ticket.
1977Newt needs money. Has no chance of getting tenure, has unpaid debts from two previous campaigns and faces at least a half-year of no income in '78 if he runs again. Realtor and former Southwire sales manager Chester Roush lines up a dozen wealthy financial backers to pay Newt to write a Cold War novel. They contribute $13,000. Newt takes the family to Europe for "research" and writes, but does not finish, a manuscript. He says Alvin Toffler told him at the time, "You're obviously better at shaking hands than writing fiction."
1978Newt wins third bid for Congress at age 35. Becomes highest-ranking elected Republican in the state. Newt wins the election against Virginia Shapard in a nasty campaign in which Newt runs as a conservative and paints Shapard as a liberal.
1979Newt tells consultant Marc Rosenberg he wants to become Speaker of the House. Newt joins the Public Works Committee and the more obscure House Administration Committee.

Rep. Vander Jagt, head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, appoints the upstart Newt chairman of a task force to plan for a GOP Majority.

Newt starts targeting Democrats on ethical issues. His first victim is Charles Diggs, Congressman from Michigan, who was convicted of mail fraud.

1980Newt asks Jackie for a divorce.
February 1981The divorce becomes final.
August 1981Newt marries Marianne Ginther, a personnel clerk with the Secret Service.
1982GOP suffers big mid-term losses. Newt meets with Nixon in New York and they agree that GOP needs more energy and ideas.
1983Newt launches "Conservative Opportunity Society," a caucus of Young Turk Republican House conservatives. Only a dozen members early on, but high profile thanks to effective use of C-SPAN.

He fashions a kind of 'New Age Reaganism' melding science fiction, Star Wars, balanced budget, line-item veto, war on drugs, war on crime, war on welfare, pro-supply side economics.

1984"Window of Opportunity," a non-fiction book published. Political supporters contribute $105,000 to advertise it.

Newt attacks Democrats' foreign policy on communism, leading to a clash with House Speaker Tip O'Neill on the floor of the House.

GOP Convention in Dallas: Newt is the New Right media star. Irritates Bob Dole and other party leaders.

1986Newt inherits control of GOPAC from conservative Pete DuPont. Over the next 10 years he will make it the most successful political machine in the country, focused on capturing a Republican majority in the House.

GOPAC registers in some states, but not with the Federal Elections Commission and does not disclose its full list of contributors.

1987-89Newt goes after Speaker of the House Jim Wright on a series of ethical charges. Wright resigns on June 6, 1989. Major victory for Newt.
1989Wins election as House Minority Whip by two votes. Victory for Young Turks over GOP old boy network.
September 1990Bush breaks his "no new taxes" pledge and Newt breaks with Bush on budget deal; won't appear with President and Congressional leaders to announce compromise at Rose Garden ceremony. Bush feels betrayed by Newt.
November 1990Wins re-election by only 974 votes. Democratic opponent David Whorley attacks Newt for supporting a Congressional pay raise. Ironically, Democratic Party fails to provide Whorley with financial backing because of its deal with Republicans not to support candidates running on the pay raise issue.
1991-1992House banking scandal. Newt has bounced checks, too, but he decides to push the issue hard to bring down the Democrats.

The Federal Elections Commision initiates action against GOPAC for failing to register as a federal political committee during the 1990 election.

1992Due to redistricting, Newt runs in a new congressional district and is nearly beaten in the primary by GOP challenger Herman Clark. Clark portrays Newt as an establishment congressman with bounced checks, limo, and other perks of power.
1993Newt begins 20-hour satellite TV course, "Renewing American Civilization" at Kennesaw State College, Georgia. It is financed by tax-deductible contributions from corporations and many GOPAC contributors. Controversy causes the course to be moved from a state college to a small private university.
1994Newt leads Republican opposition against Clinton Administration and orchestrates "The Contract With America." He gathers over 300 Republican candidates on Capitol grounds for its signing in September.
November 1994Republicans gain 54 seats to take control of House for the first time since 1952. Historic victory.
December 1994 Agrees to give up $4.5 million advance on a book contract from HarperCollins, after media attention to the deal and to Newt's meeting with Rupert Murdoch, owner of book publisher.

GOPAC agrees to disclose future contributors.

Jan 4, 1995Newt fulfills dream: becomes Speaker of the House.
1995The first 100 days. Newt sets the national political agenda. Nine of the ten "Contract" items pass the House.

Newt's opponents press ethics complaints against him for GOPAC and "Newt, Inc." conflicts of interest.

November 1995Documents filed by the Federal Elections Commission in its suit against GOPAC allege GOPAC funds were illegally used to help Newt in his 1990 election. House Ethics Committee clears Newt on most charges, reprimands Newt for Murdoch book deal and hires special counsel to investigate funding of Newt's college course.
December 1995Newt is named Time Magazine's 1995 "Man of the Year."
January 16, 1997Newt is fined $300,000 by the ethics committee for violating House rules barring use of tax-exempt foundations for political purposes.
November 6, 1998Gingrich announces he will not seek re-election for the position of Speaker of the House. Newt also announces he will retire from his seat at the end of 1998.

more about newt . interviews . his work and writings . his reading list . a chronology
bibliography . feedback . tapes & transcripts . FRONTLINE online . pbs online

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation

SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS