While Romney’s documented ancestry does not quite reach the heights of the family legend, which claimed that they are descendants of the fourth-century dragon slayer, St. George (the patron saint of England), it is still an impressive one, with some of the most celebrated thinkers (maternal great-grandfather, Parley Parker Pratt, was one of the chief literary defenders of Mormonism), famed fighters (Carl Heinrich Wilcken, a member of the Prussian army, and later, Utah’s militia) and natural leaders (Miles Romney, who founded and administered the Mormon sanctuary in Mexico in the 19th century) of post-Independence America.
The family can trace their lineage to modern England, Scotland and Germany. Miles Park Romney, Mitt’s great-great grandfather (paternal), hails from Lancashire, England, while on the maternal side, Archibald Newell Hill was a resident of Renfrew, Scotland. His great-great grandfather, the legendary Prussian soldier, Carl Heinrich Wilcken, was a native of Holstein, Germany.
Romney's family tree is rife with polygamists on the paternal side, though there is no indication of polygamy on the maternal side of his family. According to a research by The Salt Lake Tribune, Romney's ancestry harbors six polygamous men with forty-one wives. Romney, however, is a confirmed monogamist and polygamy has been absent in his family background for more than two generations.
Note: The full name of Mr. Carl Heinrich Wilcken was provided by Mr. Ulrich Oesterle from Hesse, Germany.
After the birth of her third child, Scott, Lenore LaFount Romney was devastated to learn that she could no longer carry a baby. The risks were too high, she was told, and future births could only be done through a Caesarean section. This probably explains the shock that accompanied the news of Willard Mitt Romney’s arrival on March 12, 1947.
The proud father, George Wilcken Romney, was bursting with joy and sent out telegrams and letters to family and friends from their home in Detroit, Michigan. In one of the letters, George declared, “Well, by now most of you have had the really big news, but for those who haven't, Willard Mitt Romney arrived at Ten AM March 12.”
It was a difficult birth, and the attending doctor remarked, as related by Tiger Vidmar in his book, ‘Behind the Mask: Mitt Romney’; “I don't see how she became pregnant, or how she carried the child.”
The parents named him in honor of George’s good friend, J. Willard Marriot (who would later establish the Marriot chain of hotels) and his cousin Milton ‘Mitt’ Romney, the former star quarterback for the Chicago Bears.
Romney’s arrival coincided with George’s rising fortune. The college dropout, who by then was already a highly rated executive after successful stints as General Manager of the Automobile Manufacturers Association, and later, as Managing Director of the Automotive Council for War Production, is widely credited as one of the architects in Detroit’s emergence as the Motor City of the nation.
He was poached by George Mason a year after Mitt was born and appointed as the Executive Vice President of Nash-Kelvinator, which effectively made him the number two man in the firm. Five years later, following the death of Mason, George became the President and Chairman of the firm. Within twelve months, George engineered a merger between Nash-Kelvinator and Hudson Motor Car Company, forming the American Motors Corporation (AMC).
Things were looking bleak at the time for the company. Two other smaller car manufacturers, Packard and Studebaker, folded the previous year in the face of the onslaught from the big three; General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. AMC was not expected to fare much better. But George rose to the challenge and introduced the first national branding campaign in the motor industry for the Rambler, aided by a host of Disney characters following the inking of a sponsorship agreement between AMC and Disneyland.
Two straight years of record breaking sales followed, and the Rambler became the third highest selling car in the United States by the early 60s. With the survival of AMC secured, George left the firm in late 1961 for a well-deserved rest, and to begin a new chapter in his career - politics.
George ran for Governor of Michigan in 1962, and against all odds, triumphed in what was considered a Democratic stronghold. He was reelected twice more after that, in 1964 and 1966. He was widely tipped to contest the 1968 Republican presidential nomination race. However, he withdrew after realizing that Richard Nixon was a shoe-in for the nomination. Nevertheless, President Nixon, fearing a renewed run from George in 1972, attempted to appease the man by appointing him to his 12-man cabinet, as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. George accepted the offer, and it proved to be his last high profile position.
During the time George was latched securely on a supersonic career path, young Mitt grew under the tremendous shadow of his larger than life father. However, instead of wilting under the glare of the father he idolized, Mitt, protected by an adoring mother and the rest of his siblings, and took every available opportunity to spend some time with his old man. The affection was mutual, as re-counted by Dick Milliman, the former Press Secretary for Romney Sr. “They would hug upon meeting, and not just any hug," he recalls. "He would give Mitt a big bear hug and a kiss.”
Mitt and Ann have five children, all boys, from their marriage.
Taggart Romney (1970)
Managing Partner at Solamere Capital , CMO at L.A. Dodgers, Vice President of OnField Marketing at Reebok, Director of Strategic Planning at Elan Corp.; B.Sc Economics, BYU and MBA from Harvard
Matthew Romney (1971)
VP of Property Management at Excel Legacy Corp, Product Manager for Microsoft Corp.; Bachelor of Arts from BYU and MBA from Harvard
Joshua Romney (1975)
Owner of Romney Ventures (a real estate developer), Acquisition Analyst at Intercontinental Real Estate; Bachelor of Arts from BYU and MBA from Harvard.
Among the five, Josh appears the most likely to follow in his father and grandfather’s footsteps, having served in a number of political positions in the past several years, most notably as an advisor to his father’s presidential campaign and Utah Governor’s Gary Herbert gubernatorial campaign.
Dr. Benjamin Romney (1978)
Practices Internal Medicine in Boston; Degree in Management from BYU and a medical degree from Tufts University School of Medicine. The only blond among the five.
Craig Romney (1981)
Advertising Music Producer at McGarry Bowen; Bachelor Degree in Communication, Brigham Young University (BYU)
Romney started his education at the Roosevelt Elementary School in Detroit, Michigan. Starting from the seventh grade, he attended the Cranbrook Academy, a prestigious boys-only private school in Bloomfield Hills. Romney would later claim that Cranbrook provided one of the most educative experiences in his young life, developing his social and critical-thinking skills. While he did not excel in any particular subject or activity both on the track and in the classroom, Mitt was, nevertheless, a popular all-rounder in the school. He was also the manager for the school hockey team, as well as a member of the cross-country team and the pep squad.
Mitt, along with future wife Ann Lois Davies and several other friends, were briefly arrested for their part in an elaborate prank that involved blocks of ice, towels and the golf course. Details are sketchy, and the records have long been sealed, but the consensus was they were sliding down a slope, riding the towel covered blocks of ice.
Video: The Making of Mitt Romney (Part 1) by The Boston Globe
Romney graduated high school in 1965 and promptly enrolled in Stanford University. However, his stay there was cut short, and he traveled to France to begin missionary work on behalf of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a popular activity among the Mormon youths at the time. He spent the next two and a half years there cycling around the countryside dressed in formal black attire, attempting to convert the mainly Catholic residents to his faith. Disaster struck six months before he left for home when he was involved in an automobile accident. A Catholic priest, believed to be under the influence, smashed into the car Romney was driving. He was thrown right out of the vehicle, but did not suffer serious injuries. However, one of the passengers died in the accident. The experience proved to be a sobering one for Romney, as he would later recount.
Upon his return, he married his high school sweetheart, Ann, and soon after, enrolled in Brigham Young University. He graduated in 1971 with a Degree in English, with a 3.97GPA. His young family then moved to Boston, and Mitt enrolled in both Harvard Law (HLS) and Harvard Business School (HBS). He obtained his MBA from HBS in 1975 and graduated cum laude from HLS with his Juris Doctor the same year, finishing in the top 5% of his class.
• Before joining college, Romney had received a deferment from the draft as a Mormon 'minister of religion' for the duration of his missionary work in France, which lasted two and a half years. At the time, there was an agreement of sorts between the church and the Selective Service allowing exemptions from the draft for missionaries. Before and after his missionary deferment, Romney also received nearly three years of deferments for his academic studies.
• In April 1965, Romney registered with the Selective Service but was not considered readily available for military service until December 1970. When he became eligible for military service in 1970, he drew a high number in the annual draft lottery and at that time no one drawing higher than 195 was drafted.
• Mitt Romney is a Mormon, and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS).
• Mitt Romney is the fifth Mormon to try for presidency.
• Comparing his stance to that of John F. Kennedy's famous address in 1960, Mitt Romney said
'Like him, I am an American running for president. I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because he believes in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers -- I will be true to them and to my beliefs,"
• In his Faith in America speech on December 16th 2007, Mitt Romney said
"No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith. For if he becomes president he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths."
Romney met Ann Lois Davies (April 16, 1949) while both were still in elementary school. On their first meeting, Romney threw stones at his future wife, remarking, “What do Cub Scouts do when they see a little girl on a horse? We picked up stones and threw them.”
Their relationship did not progress until her sophomore year, when an 18-year old Mitt saw her at a friend's party. Stunned by the beautiful 16-year old, Mitt offered to drive her home that night, oblivious to the fact that she came with a date for the night. They went on their first date on March 1, 1965, watching Julie Andrews’ The Sound of Music, and young Mitt was very much in love then.
“Clearly, she was beautiful then. But there was something else that happened very quickly … I didn’t want to be anywhere else but with Ann. I wanted to be with her all the time and couldn’t imagine being anywhere else besides being with her.”
Romney proposed to Ann during the school prom the same year, and she accepted. Mitt left for France not long after to do missionary work in France on behalf of the LDS Church, and their relationship was limited to two brief visits in the next year, and the occasional phone calls. Ann enrolled in the Brigham Young University (BYU) the following year, and she managed to engineer a transfer to the University of Grenoble in France for a single semester in her freshman year, allowing the young couple some desperately needed time together.
However, their fairy tale romance suffered a hiccup. The prolonged time apart and lack of communication frustrated Ann. The 18-year old beauty was heavily courted by the boys in BYU, and matters were not helped when Mitt’s phone calls and letters suddenly dried up during the summer of 1968. Fearing the worst, Ann dropped her guard down and accepted the persistent wooing of Kim Cameron, BYU’s student body vice president and star of the men’s basketball team. She wrote to Mitt, and indicating that perhaps they should be seeing other people. Little did she know that Mitt was recovering from a horrific car accident in Bordeaux, which claimed the life of one of his fellow missionary.
Mitt returned home in December 1968, and admitted, “I didn't know how we would feel.” But any misgivings he may have had disappeared when he saw Ann waiting with members of his family in the airport. Mitt wasted no time and went straight for the jugular. Seated next to Ann in the back of his sister’s car on their way home, Mitt asked, “You want to get married?”
“Yeah,” answered Ann. They were wedded four months later on March 21, 1969, in a civil ceremony in the Davies residence. 42 years on, and the couple is still going strong. Their marriage has been blessed with five sons, and 16 grandchildren.
Ann, who is a national-level equestrian, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November 1998. Today, her current condition is stable.She attributes the remission to a combination of “reflexology, accupressure, accupuncture, deep-breathing exercises, yoga” and horse riding.