Mike Gravel was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, to French-Canadian immigrants. He attended French-speaking Catholic schools and worked in house painting and construction.
Gravel enlisted in the Army in the early 1950's and served in the CIA. He earned a B.S. in economics from Columbia University. Gravel worked in the real estate business in Alaska.
He served in the Alaska House of Representatives from 1963-1969 and in the U.S. Senate from 1969-1981. As senator he served on the Finance, Interior, and Environment, and Public Works committees. In 1973, he introduced legislation to authorize building the Alaska oil pipeline.
Besides real estate, Gravel has worked as a cab driver, Wall Street clerk, and brakeman for the Alaska Railroad. He's also founded nonprofit organizations dedicated to direct democracy through a federal ballot initiative. He's written two books.
Gravel is married to his wife Whitney and has two kids, and four grandchildren.