Senator Cornyn was born in Houston on February 2, 1952, the second of three children of Gale and John Cornyn, both native Texans.
Senator Cornyn’s father was a B-17 pilot in World War II, serving in the Army-Air Corps, and was shot down on his twenty-sixth mission over Germany. He was captured and spent the last four months of the war in a German prisoner of war camp. After the war, he returned to the United States, specifically, Corpus Christi, Texas, where he met Gale. Senator Cornyn’s father went to college and dental school on the G.I. Bill. After a combined 31 years of military service, Dr. Cornyn retired to teach at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.
Senator Cornyn’s mother, Gale, was born and raised in Robstown, Texas. Although most of her time was spent rearing her children, she worked part time in the real estate business, selling homes in San Antonio.
Raised as he was in a military family, Senator Cornyn traveled a great deal as he was growing up. At various points, he and his family lived in Houston, El Paso, and San Antonio, Texas; Biloxi, Mississippi; Kensington, Maryland; and Tokyo, Japan.
Senator Cornyn graduated from high school in Japan. He was on the wrestling team and the track and field team, where he threw the discus and shot put. Senator Cornyn played the trombone in school from 3rd grade until he graduated from high school in 1969. While in Japan, he climbed Mt. Fuji in a pair of old cowboy boots, which produced painful blisters, a mistake he never made again!
College, Work, Law School
Senator Cornyn attended Trinity University in San Antonio, where he initially majored in biology and planned to become a physician. After current events and writing captured his imagination, however, he changed his major to journalism and began writing for the school newspaper, The Trinitonian.
During college, Senator Cornyn was a member of the Chi Delta Tau fraternity and was very active in intramural sports- he played intramural football, basketball, and racquetball and was named “outstanding intramural athlete” his senior year. He graduated from Trinity in 1973 with a Bachelors Degree in Journalism.
Upon graduation from college, Senator Cornyn looked around for journalism jobs, but ultimately decided to go into the real estate business. Unfortunately, his timing was very bad- money was tight and interest rates were in the high double digits. Because he worked solely on commissions, it was a challenging time, financially, but a good time to reassess what he wanted to do with his life. Law school beckoned.
Senator Cornyn entered St. Mary’s Law School in San Antonio in 1974, which proved to be a pivotal experience. He thrived in law school, making good grades, serving on the Law Journal, and being elected as President of the Student Bar Association. He received his Juris Doctor Degree from St. Mary’s in 1977.
Early Career & Family Life
At the age of 25, Senator Cornyn met his future wife, Sandy Hansen, on a blind date, in 1977. Sandy had been teaching middle school in the South San Antonio School District, but had quit to pursue another college degree. Senator Cornyn and Sandy were married in 1979.
Sandy was born in Wisconsin, raised in San Antonio, and holds two undergraduate degrees- the first, a double major in English and History from the University of Texas at Austin, and the second, in Business Administration from Incarnate Word College in San Antonio. She has worked as a teacher, accountant, executive assistant, job trainer, and advocate for senior health care issues, and has been an active partner and advisor to her husband throughout his political and professional life.
Senator Cornyn and Sandy welcomed the birth of their first daughter, Danley, in 1981. She was followed 16 months later by a sister, Haley, in 1982.