Tipper Gore BioNAME: Mary Elizabeth "Tipper" Gore
RELATION: Wife of Vice President Al Gore
AGE AT CONVENTION: 48
Born Mary Elizabeth Aitcheson on August 19, 1948 in Washington, D.C., Tipper Gore grew up in Arlington, Virginia. She was nicknamed Tipper by her mother from one of her favorite childhood lullaby's, "Tippy Tippy Tin." An only child, Tipper was raised by her mother and grandmother in a home built by her grandfather in 1938. Tipper's mother, Margaret Odom, was widowed in World War II and her second marriage to Tipper's father, John Aitcheson, ended in divorce when Tipper was only four. Her father owned a large and successful plumbing supply business. Tipper saw him every Sunday. While attending St. Agnes, a private girls' school, Tipper was ostracized for being the product of a broken home. Although not many details have been written about her parents or their divorce, in an interview with Good Housekeeping in March of 1993 Tipper said her childhood experience "created an early awareness" of the plight of others: "Growing up with divorce is not easy but it has given me plenty of empathy for people who might be going through less-than-perfect lives." Tipper's father has since remarried and is on happy terms with Tipper and her family. (Source: Good Housekeeping. March 1993; Redbook, March 1994)
By high school, Tipper had developed into a popular, outgoing student who played on the basketball, softball and field hockey teams. She also played drums for The Wildcats, an all-girl rock band.
Tipper met Al Gore at his high school senior prom (St. Albans School in Washington, D.C.) when she was 16. Of the encounter Tipper has said it was "absolutely pure animal magnetism." Al Gore phoned her the next day to ask her for a date. Tipper said she remembers going to a party and "dancing and dancing ... everyone else just melted away." Soon thereafter Gore invited her to visit his family's farm in Carthage, Tennessee. Gore had broken off a previous romance with a childhood sweetheart, and he and Tipper have been together ever since.
Al Gore went to study at Harvard University. Tipper went to Boston University a year later, majoring in psychology. At the end of her junior year Gore officially proposed and she accepted. In the Good Housekeeping interview Tipper said: "We had gone out to dinner and we were walking by the Charles River...he had this beautiful ring...it was a very romantic proposal." Gore graduated from Harvard in 1969 and enlisted in the Army. They married in May of 1970 after Tipper graduated when she was just 21 and Gore was 22. Their first home was in a trailer park in Daleville, Alabama, near where Al Gore was stationed. (Source: Good Housekeeping, March 1993)
On Christmas Day 1971, Al Gore left for Vietnam and landed a job as an Army journalist. Tipper said, "it was a rough time...the war was raging. Al's father (U.S. Senator Al Gore Sr.) had just been defeated in a very nasty election, Nixon was president; it was all very depressing." When Gore returned home after six months, he and Tipper moved their family back to the small town of Carthage, Tennessee, 40 miles outside of Nashville. Gore took a job as a reporter for The Tennessean newspaper while studying at Vanderbilt University. Tipper also worked at the newspaper as a part-time photographer while raising their first child, Karenna, and pursuing a master's degree in psychology at George Peabody College. (Source: Good Housekeeping, March 1993)
Al Gore's victorious 1976 bid for a vacant Congressional seat returned the family to Washington. Throughout his 16 years in Congress (eight in the House,eight in the Senate) the Gores traveled back and forth between their home in Washington and their farm, which is adjacent to his parents' farm in Carthage.
Tipper put her family first, giving up a career she could have pursued either as a photographer or a psychologist. Of that decision Tipper said, "I was of course, immediately conflicted by giving up something that I loved doing" (She quit her job as a photographer for the Nashville Tennessean in 1976 to campaign for her husband.) In a Good Housekeeping interview Tipper said, "If I'd wanted to go for my own career and get somebody to take care of the children, I would have done that. I truly did not wish to. I wanted to spend a lot of time with our kids. I'm having an impact in a different way." (Source: Good Housekeeping, March 1993; USA TODAY, August 3, 1992)
In 1984 in Washington, Tipper and her children spotted a homeless woman and the children asked if they could take the woman home because she looked so terrible. The incident sparked a commitment to volunteer in homeless shelters. Tipper also began organizing a group called Families for the Homeless, a group dedicated to raising money and attention to the issue. Tipper is also an advocate of mental health care for children and adults. She told Good Housekeeping, "We have to have community-based mental-health-care delivery systems that are child and family oriented, and we need the insurance industry to reimburse patients for the care that represents an alternative to hospitalization."
One day in 1987 when Tipper was listening to one of her daughter Karenna's albums (Prince's "Purple Rain") she was so disturbed by its sexually explicit lyrics that she launched a crusade to persuade record companies voluntarily to label all albums and tapes containing explicit language. She took the music industry to task for glamorizing sex and violence in material targeted to kids. She also wrote a book, Raising PG Kids in an X-rated Society. Tipper was attacked by many in the music industry who perceived her campaign as a form of censorship. Frank Zappa called her a "cultural terrorist." In the end, Gore's crusade for voluntary labels was successful and her stand for what later would be called "family values" contributed to the image of the 1992 Democratic ticket. (source: Redbook March 1994)
In 1989, her youngest child, Albert was struck by a car and almost killed as he and his father were returning from an Orioles game. (See Albert Jr. biography for additional details about the accident) "The experience of Albert's injury was a crucible that altered their lives. Because of it Al Gore decided not to repeat a run for the presidency in 1992 (he made a first attempt in 1987-88) and accepted Bill Clinton's offer of the vice presidency because it meant only three months of campaigning away from home. Tipper became even more convinced her children always come first. She zealously guards their privacy and ... despite a busy calendar, she schedules time with her family." (Source: Good Housekeeping, March 1993)
Clinton called the Gore's home at 11pm on July 7, 1992 to offered Gore the vice presidency. The official announcement was made in Little Rock on July 9, 1992. Tipper said she was "pleased, supportive, and excited...and felt that Gore's presence on the ticket would make it a winning combination." She said in an interview that she did not regret Gore's not going for the top of the ticket, "this is the way it should be. It all flowed from good decisions made for the right reasons." (Source: Good Housekeeping, March 1993)
Tipper and Hillary Clinton got acquainted when the Gores went to Little Rock for the announcement of Gore's candidacy. The two found an immediate bond and consider themselves close friends. In an interview with the Courier-Journal, Tipper said, "I felt Hillary was my long-lost sister from the moment I met her ... We're not exactly alike, but I think we understand each other perfectly. I feel really blessed that we have developed such a solid friendship." (Source: The Courier Journal, October 20, 1994)
Tipper Gore serves as a Mental Health Advisor to the President. Her official biography says: "She is committed to eradicating the stigma associated with mental illness and substance abuse and continues to work toward ensuring quality, affordable mental health care. She also serves as Special Advisor to the Interagency Council on the Homeless with representatives from 17 member agencies to improve the effective delivery of federal homeless assistance resources and program coordination at the state and local level.
On a more personal note, her biography reads that she is "a strong proponent of regular exercise, she jogs, bikes, and enjoys roller-blading with her children."
(Sources: Official Biography (Office of the Vice President); Facts on File; Who's Who; The Washington Times (February 5, 1996); Good Housekeeping (March 1993); USA Today (August 3, 1992); Saturday Evening Post (March 1993); Redbook (March 1994); The (Louisville) Courier-Journal (October 30, 1994); Runner's World (June 1994) Direct quotes are noted in text.)
AllPolitics home page
Copyright © 1997 AllPolitics All Rights Reserved