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Michael Floyd McGowan (born May 17, 1951) is the current United States Secretary of Transportation, having been confirmed on February 10, 2013. Previously, McGowan served as the Ambassador to Oceania from 2000 to 2005, as the junior US Senator from Illinois between 1993-1999, and represented Illinoi's 16th District from 1989-1993. McGowan was a graduate of the Naval Academy and became an assistant prosecutor in Rockford after his service was over, service which ended with a nearly-fatal back injury in a storm in the South China Sea in which he was swept overboard when the USS Montauk ran aground on a reef near the Spratly Islands. He is a member of the National Party.
McGowan rose to national fame at a young age when, while running for US Senate to replace the retiring Alan J. Dixon in 1992, he gave a well-received speech at the 1992 National Party Convention in Houston, eclipsing keynote speaker George Steinbrenner and even nominees President Robert Redford and Vice President George Bush. He would win that fall's Senate election in Illinois despite the Redford-Bush ticket losing the state. He declined to run for President in 1996 despite being the initial frontrunner, and his defeat in the 1998 Senate race following a scandal-ridden campaign killed his ambitions for higher office permanently.
Michael F. McGowan was born May 17, 1951 in Joliet, Illinois, to James McGowan (1928-) and Sarah McGowan (1930-). He was the oldest of five children, with three younger brothers and a younger sister. His family was of Irish descent and he was raised in a conservative Catholic household. His father worked at a steel mill in Joliet and his mother was a schoolteacher.
McGowan graduated from Joliet Catholic High School in 1969, having played football and basketball for the Hilltoppers. Despite good grades and a scholarship offer to play football at Notre Dame, McGowan chose to attend the United States Naval Academy, earning his commission in 1973. He was assigned as an ensign to the USS Montauk in 1974, stationed at NATO Joint Base Melville in Oceania. On October 17, 1975, during an exercise in the South China Sea in conjunction with the Oceanian Navy conducted at the height of tensions in the Burmese War, a storm hit the navy group and the USS Montauk ran aground on a high reef in the Spratly Islands. McGowan was thrown from the ship and landed in the shallow water, severely injuring his back and breaking his left arm. Using his right arm, he managed to swim back to a nearby ship, the USS Golley. His injuries prevented him from completing his term of service, and he was honorably discharged in January of 1976. Because the incident occurred in Japanese territorial waters, the USS Montauk incident later became a source of embarrassment for the US Navy after the ship was abandoned and stripped by the Japanese.
After recovering from his injuries, McGowan was accepted to the Northeastern University School of Law, where he graduated in fall of 1978 with a juris doctor. He joined the Cook County Prosecutor's Office and in 1982 moved to Rockford after being offered the chance to serve as Assistant District Attorney for Winnebago County. In 1985, he ran to replace his predecessor, but was defeated in the election that year. McGowan instead joined the law firm of Sutter and Brooks as a junior partner.