Ted Olson Biography

Lawyer (1940–)
Ted Olson is a U.S. attorney who's argued many times in front of the Supreme Court, having served under the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations.


Born on September 11, 1940, in Chicago, Illinois, Ted Olson practiced law with the firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, becoming assistant attorney general under President Ronald Reagan. He argued against a voting recount in the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court case, became solicitor general and faced great personal loss when his wife, Barbara, was killed in a 9/11 hijacking. Olson later called for overturning Prop 8.

Early Life and Career

Theodore Bevry Olson was born on September 11, 1940, in Chicago, Illinois. He was educated in public schools in California, receiving his undergraduate degree in communication and history at the University of Pacific in Stockton, California, in 1962. After earning his law degree from the University of California, Berkeley (Boalt Hall), in 1965, Olson worked as an associate in the Los Angeles office of the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. He was made a partner in 1972, having specialized in constitutional, commercial and administrative law.

Assistant Attorney General

Olson then served as an assistant attorney general in the Reagan Administration from 1981 to 1984, before returning to private practice as a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of his former law firm. He was legal counsel to U.S. President Ronald Reagan during the investigation of the Iran-contra affair. He also represented Jonathan Pollard, who was convicted of selling government secrets to Israel, in his failed bid for a reduction of his life sentence.

Democrats allege that Ted Olson was also part of the Arkansas Project, which aimed to damage and end the presidency of Bill Clinton during the 1990s. Olson assisted Paula Jones's legal team in her sexual harassment suit against Clinton.

'Bush v. Gore' and Later Life

Olson later successfully represented presidential candidate George W. Bush in the Supreme Court case Bush v. Gore, which effectively determined the final result of the contested 2000 presidential election. Olson served as U.S. solicitor general under Bush from 2001 to 2004.

In 2005, Olson was twice considered a potential nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court—first to fill Sandra Day O'Connor's post and again following the withdrawal of Harriet Miers.

Personal Life

Olson's third wife, lawyer and frequent television commentator Barbara K. Olson, was a passenger on the hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001—his 61st birthday.

In 2002, Olson met Lady Booth, a tax attorney from Kentucky. The couple married in 2006.

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