Native of Omaha, Nebraska – served for 26 years in the United States Air Force with worldwide assignments covering Europe, Africa, Middle East and Asia. While on his 67th combat mission over North Vietnam in 1966, Peterson was shot down, captured, and spent the next six and a half years as a prisoner of war. Retired from military service in 1981 at the rank of full Colonel and engaged in various business enterprises immediately thereafter. Joined the faculty of Florida State University in 1985 and became Director of a Specialized Psychological treatment program at the University. Following an attempt by the State Government to discontinue funding for that program, fought hard and won the battle to keep the funding by mobilizing key state political and civic forces in the process. This episode provided the inspiration and motivation for his decision to enter US federal politics in 1989 – was subsequently elected to the House of Representatives where he served for 3 terms representing the Second Congressional District of Florida. Following resignation from the US Congress in 1997, he was appointed by President Clinton as the first US Ambassador to post-war Vietnam. Was re-appointed by President Bush in January 2001 for an indefinite term, but resigned in July 2001 in order to re-enter US politics and run for the governorship of Florida. However withdrew from the campaign following the September 11th terrorist attack for personal reasons and in order to pursue other business and philanthropic interests worldwide.
Ambassador Peterson holds a B.A. from the University of Tampa, while has done graduate work at the Central Michigan University and fulfilled grad school at the National War College in Washington D.C.
He is married, and has two children.