Tom Carper was born in Beckley, West Virginia and grew up in Danville and Roanoke, Virginia. He won a Navy ROTC scholarship that enabled him to attend Ohio State University and graduated in 1968 with a B.A. in economics. He served three tours as a naval flight officer during a hot war in S.E. Asia and for another 18 years in the Naval Reserve as a P-3 aircraft mission commander until the end of the Cold War, retiring with the rank of captain in 1991. As the Vietnam War was winding down, Tom Carper moved to Delaware in 1973 and went on to earn an MBA at the University of Delaware.
Today, he and Martha, his wife of more than 30 years, live in Wilmington. They are the proud parents of two adult sons. When the Senate is in session, Senator Carper travels daily from Wilmington to Washington.