Janet Huckabee, Mike’s Wife: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

COLUMBIA, SC - JANUARY 19:  Republican presidential hopeful and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and his wife Janet arrive at a post-primary campaign rally at Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center January 19, 2008 in Columbia, South Carolina. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was the winner of the South Carolina Republican primary, followed by Huckabee with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney placing fourth. The Republican party also held its Nevada caucus where Romney won while Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) placed second, leaving McCain in third and Huckabee in fourth place.  (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)

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When Mike Huckabee ran for president in 2008, his wife Janet largely kept a low profile throughout his campaign. She was quiet. She was self-deprecating. She talked about Mike first.

That was a mistake.

Janet Huckabee, 60, is not one to normally be pushed to the back of the line. She does not skulk in political shadows. The former First Lady of Arkansas has a voice, a powerful one, and more often than not she’s ready and wiling to use it. That’s why, this time around, Mike and Janet are taking on his presidential campaign head on together. They’re a joint force at home, they might as well act like it on the campaign circuit.

Now, with Mike Huckabee set to participate in the first Republic candidate debate on FOX News, learn a bit more about his wife of over 40 years and her impressive personality. Here’s what you need to know:


1. Janet & Mike Had Their First Date in 1973 & Married in 1974

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, AR - FEBRUARY 05:  Former Arkansas Governor and Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee (R) receives an "I Voted" sticker as he and his wife Janet cast their ballots for the Presidential nominee in Mary's Hall at St. Anne's Catholic Church on Super Tuesday February 5, 2008 in North Little Rock, Arkansas. Voters in 24 states head to the polls today in the U.S. presidential election's biggest primary day, Super Tuesday.   (Photo by Rick Gershon/Getty Images)

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Janet was born in 1955 in Lake Charles, Louisiana, the fourth of five siblings, but moved to Hope, Arkansas when she was just an infant. While growing up, Janet was a standout basketball player, competing for Hope High School.

It was at that high school that Janet first met Mike Huckabee.

He had a different childhood than her; Janet’s parents had divorced shortly after moving to Arkansas, and the two didn’t even attend the same church. But they went to the same high school and there was no going back once they met. Janet explained the early days of their relationship to The Arkansas Times:

We started dating our senior year. Our first date was going bowling in Emmett, unless you count the time when we went with a couple of friends to eat at the truck stop in Fulton after one of my basketball games.

The couple attended Ouachita Baptist in Arkadelphia and were married when they were just 18 years old. Although Janet left school after her wedding, she eventually finished her degree at John Brown University, graduating with honors in organizational management.


2. Janet Was Diagnosed With Spinal Cancer in the Mid-1970’s

Only a year after Janet and Mike were married, in September 1974, the newly-minted Mrs. Huckabee noticed a persistent pain in her back. She had been working as a dental assistant at the time and chalked the pain up to time spent on her feet but said, “it did not get better and it did not get better.”

It took another year before Janet visited a doctor, who diagnosed her with a slipped disc. But that wasn’t all. A handful of clinical tests discovered a malignant mass growing around the spinal canal and Janet was diagnosed with cancer. She faced the prospect of being paralyzed and unable to have children with poise and faith, adding that her husband’s dedication was a major part of her recovery:

It was a testing of his commitment to me. He took care of me, helped me learn to walk again, took me daily for six weeks to radiation therapy.

Janet not only recovered but, more than 20 years later, has not had a recurrence. She says she still worries about a return but refuses to “live in fear of cancer.”


3. She Ran For Arkansas Secretary of State in 2002

HOPE, AR - MAY 05:  Janet Huckabee, wife of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, speaks to the audience before Mike Huckabee announces his candidacy for the 2016 Presidential race on May 5, 2015 in Hope, Arkansas. Huckabee, a Republican, previously ran for the presidency in 2008.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

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While her husband’s political career has long-been the focus of the Huckabee family, Janet ventured into politics on her own in 2002 when she ran for Arkansas Secretary of State.

Janet ran as the Republican candidate that year, the same fall that Mike was seeking reelection as the state’s governor, but was defeated by State Treasurer Jimmie Lou Fisher. She ran a tough campaign, unafraid to mince words when she was criticized for using state cars during the race, telling The New York Times, “If it wasn’t for the grace of God, I’d have shot a few people already.”


4. Janet & Mike Have Three Children Together

Although she faced the prospect of never having children when she was first diagnosed with cancer, Janet and Mike are parents to three kids; John Mark, David, and Sarah.

The Huckabees are not only a devoutly religious family but incredibly vocal about the “tradition” behind their 40-plus year marriage. The couple co-signed a USA Today ad in 1998, thanking the Southern Baptists for releasing a message that said “a wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the leadership of Christ.”

The family, led by Janet, has also done extensive charity work, including building houses for Habitat for Humanity and even helping evacuees of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.


5. She Was Called the ‘First Tomboy’ While Mike Served as Governor

FORT WORTH, TX - FEBRUARY 29:  Janet Huckabee learns how to rope with her husband Republican presidential hopeful and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee at the Fort Worth Stockyards February 29, 2008 in Fort Worth, Texas. The former Arkansas Governor is far behind Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in delegates but hopes to do well in the largely conservative state of Texas.  (Photo by Rick Gershon/Getty Images)

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Don’t let her in-campaign quiet fool you, Janet Huckabee is not docile. She is not a pro-typical Southern Belle. She is, for all intents and purposes, a tomboy. In fact, while Mike was serving his term as governor of Arkansas, the general public referred to Jackie as the “First Tomboy.”

During Mike’s years in office, Janet spent most of her time outside. She tracked bears, hunted rattlesnakes and even once fired a grenade launcher at a National Guard training camp. She hit the target twice. When the Arkansas government wanted to promote the conservation sales tax, they called on Janet for help. She responded by jet-skiing down the length of the Arkansas River. She’s now in the state’s Outdoor Hall of Fame.

Janet’s longtime friend, Anita McCauley Murrell told Newsweek that Janet was never one to back down from a challenge, adding, “Janet is going to tell you what she thinks. She is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of person.”


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