Peter "Pete" Wilson was born in Lake Forest, Illinois, a suburb north of Chicago. He attended Yale University on an ROTC scholarship, earned a bachelor's degree in English literature in 1955, and subsequently served three years as a Marine Corps infantry officer. He earned a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley, Boalt Hall in 1962.
Wilson's public service career began in 1966, when he was elected to the California Assembly. In 1971 he was elected mayor of San Diego. He remained mayor until he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1982 and reelected in 1988. He was elected Governor of California in 1990, becoming California’s thirty-sixth chief executive, and was reelected in 1994.
As governor, Wilson's focused on reforms in the areas of health coverage for employees of small businesses, workers compensation, and education. In addition, he signed into law two major pieces of crime-related legislation–the “Three Strikes” law (25 years to life for repeat felons) and the “One Strike” law (25 years to life upon the first conviction of aggravated rape or child molestation).
After leaving office, he spent two years as a managing director of Pacific Capital Group, a merchant bank based in Los Angeles. Wilson is currently a principal of the Bingham Consulting Group. He is also of counsel to Bingham McCutchen and a member of the Board of Advisors of Thomas Weisel Partners, a San Francisco merchant bank. He serves as a director of the Irvine Company, U.S. Telepacific Corporation, Inc., National Information Consortium Inc. and IDT Entertainment.
Wilson received the Woodrow Wilson Institute award for Distinguished Public Service and was awarded the Patriots Award by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. He is on the governing boards of the National D-Day Museum, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, the Richard M. Nixon Foundation, and the Donald Bren Foundation, and is founding director of the California Mentor Foundation.