Newt Gingrich 2012: Republican Presidential Candidate

The former speak of the House was named Time's 1995 'Man of the Year'

September 20, 2011, 10:47 AM

— -- Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, 68, declared his presidential candidacy on May 11, 2011, becoming the first presidential candidate ever to announce on the social media site Twitter.

"Today I am announcing my candidacy for president of the United States. You can watch my announcement here.," he wrote to his 1.3 million followers on Twitter.

Originally named Newton Leroy McPherson, Gingrich was born in Harrisburg, Penn. in 1943 to Kathleen and Newton Searles McPherson, but the couple's marriage dissolved within days of their nuptials, leaving Kathleen to care for a young child on her own. In 1946, his mother married Robert Gingrich, an Army officer, who adopted Newt and raised him with his three half sisters – Candace, Susan and Roberta.

As a child in a military family, Gingrich moved multiple times, which included living abroad on military bases in Orleans, France, and Stuggart, Germany. Prior to the start of high school, the Gingrich family moved to Fort Benning, Ga., and in 1961, Gingrich graduated from Baker High School as a National Merit Scholar semi-finalist and was voted "Most Intellectual" by his classmates.

When he was 19 years old, Gingrich married his high school geometry teacher, Jackie Battley, with whom he had two daughters – Jackie Gingrich Cushman and Kathy Gingrich Lubbers.

Battley supported the family while Gingrich pursued his bachelor of arts in history from Emory University. Gingrich proceeded to earn a masters in 1968 and a PhD in modern European history from Tulane University in 1971. Gingrich taught history and environmental studies at West Georgia College from 1970 to 1978.

At the age of 31, Gingrich made his first bid for Congress in the 6th congressional district of Georgia against Rep. Jack Flynt, a 20-year Democratic incumbent, but Gingrich lost with 48.5 percent of the vote. He pursued his second bid for Congress in 1976 but lost again with 48.3 percent of the vote.

In 1978, Gingrich challenged Democrat Virginia Shepard and won the congressional seat at age 35, becoming the highest-ranking elected Republican in the state of Georgia and beginning a 20-year career in the House of Representatives.

After 18 years of marriage, Gingrich divorced Battley in 1980 and married Marianne Ginther, the daughter of an Ohio mayor whom he met at a political fundraiser, in 1981.

In his early years in Congress, Gingrich's activism on Capitol Hill earned him notoriety. He founded the Conservative Opportunity Society, a group of conservative House Republicans hand-selected by Gingrich to exchange ideas and develop policy. In 1989, Gingrich won the election as the House Minority Whip, succeeding future Vice President Dick Cheney. He used the leadership position to increase the activism of the Republican party and led ethics charges against multiple members of Congress.

During the 1994 election, Gingrich was the architect of the "Contract With America," which was a set of ten policies Republicans promised to vote on within the first 100 days of Congress if they won the election. The contract included issues such as welfare reform, a balanced budget law and creating tougher crime laws.

In November 1994, Republicans gained 54 seats and took control of the House for the first time since 1954. Gingrich became Speaker of the House and brought the Contract with America to the House floor for votes. He was named Time Magazine's "Man of the Year" in 1995.

Gingrich's greatest legislative accomplishments were welfare reform and balancing the federal budget. In 1996, he first toyed with the idea of running for president but did not follow through with it until nearly 15 years later.

Gingrich carried on a six-year affair with Callista Bisek, a Hill staffer, while he was married to Ginther. During the time of the affair, Gingrich led impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton.

In 1998, Gingrich announced he would step down as speaker and not seek re-election after the Republican Party saw major losses in the mid-term election and Gingrich was embroiled in an ethics scandal, regarding allegations of tax improprieties.

Following his 20-year career in Congress, Gingrich continued his involvement in politics through the formation of policy centers such as the Center for Health Transformation and American Solutions for Winning the Future.

Gingrich is the author of 24 books and has produced eight documentaries through his production company, Gingrich Productions.

Gingrich divorced Ginther in 2000 and married Bisek that same year. Formerly a Southern Baptist, Gingrich converted to Catholicism in 2009.

Gingrich lives in McLean, Va. with his wife. They have two daughters and two grandchildren.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events