Tommy Franks was born in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, and grew up in Midland, Texas, where he graduated from Robert E. Lee High School one year ahead of First Lady Laura Bush. After two years at the University of Texas, he joined the United States Army, and in 1967, as a distinguished graduate of the Artillery Officer Candidate School, he was commissioned a second lieutenant and sent to Vietnam.
His service in Vietnam earned him six awards for valor and three Purple Hearts. That assignment was the start of a long and distinguished career that would take him from one world hot spot to another—from West Germany at the height of the Cold War to the Demilitarized Zone in Korea, and then to the deserts of Arabia. Through this journey, he gained the knowledge and experience that would prepare him for the leadership role that would mark his place in the annals of American history.
Along the way, Franks attended the University of Texas, Arlington, where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in business administration, and Shippensburg University, where he graduated with a master's degree in public administration. He is also a graduate of the Armed Forces Staff College and the Army War College.
In June 2000, he was promoted to four-star general and assigned as commander-in-chief of United States Central Command. This position was the culmination of an almost four-decade military career that saw him lead American and coalition troops in two strategically unprecedented campaigns in two years: Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq.
Franks’ awards include five Distinguished Service Medals, four Legions of Merit, four Bronze Stars, and three Purple Hearts, in addition to numerous foreign awards. He was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) by order of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on May 25, 2004. President George W. Bush awarded him the nation's highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, on December 14, 2004. Franks has received honorary degrees from a number of universities, including his alma mater, Shippensburg University, and his wife's alma mater, Oklahoma State University.
Since his retirement from the military in 2003, Franks has traveled the world, speaking on leadership, character, and the value of democracy. His autobiography, American Soldier, debuted as No. 1 on the New York Times Best Sellers list in August, 2004.
Franks serves on the boards of the University of Texas, Arlington, and William Penn University. He is co-chair of the Flight 93 memorial foundation and serves as an advisor to the Military Child Education Coalition, Operation Homefront Oklahoma, and the Southeastern Guide Dog Organization.
President George W. Bush has called Franks "a down-to-earth, no-nonsense guy." His troops call him "a Soldier's General," and his associates call him "an astute businessman." His grand kids call him "Pooh."