For the first time ever, Amazon‘s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos testified before the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust on July 29, along with CEOs from Apple, Facebook and Google. This is the first time that the CEOs of the country’s four biggest tech companies have testified together, although remotely, according to CNBC.
The antitrust hearing was part of an investigation into digital markets that was launched more than a year ago, according to the committee. It aimed to examine the dominance of the tech giants, discussing whether these companies had abused their power and posed threats to fair competition in the market, especially during the pandemic.
Committee chair David N. Cicilline said in his opening remarks that these companies “have too much power,” and some of their practices “discourage entrepreneurship, destroy jobs, hike costs, and degrade quality.”
In his prepared remarks released by Amazon one day before the hearing, Bezos shared his personal story and mentioned how his family had inspired him to grow into a “garage inventor,” and eventually one of the world’s most successful businessmen. He said “one of the great gifts” in his life was his mom and dad and they had been “incredible role models” for him and his siblings.
Here’s what you need to know about Bezos’ parents and his family:
1. Bezos’ Mother Was a Single Teen Mom & Her School Tried to Kick Her Out Because of Her Pregnancy
Bezos, the world’s richest men, was born to a single teenage mother in 1964. Still a high school student in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Jackie Bezos, née Gies, was two weeks past her 17th birthday when she gave birth to Bezos, she said in a commencement speech at the Cambridge College in 2019.
Her high school tried to kick her out, but she managed to stay after some negotiation, she said. Despite being able to finish school, Jackie wasn’t allowed to attend extracurricular activities, talk to other students, or walk across the stage to get her diploma just like any high school student, she shared in the commencement speech.
Although Jackie married Jeff’s biological father Ted Jorgensen, the couple divorced when their son was 17 months, according to CNBC. She then got a job to work as a typist and was paid $190 a month, which allowed her to move into her own apartment with her infant son, but left no money for her to set up a phone at home.
Jackie’s father set up a walkie-talkie so that he and his wife could check in with their daughter every day, CNBC reported.
I won the lottery with my mom. Thanks for literally everything, Mom. pic.twitter.com/gEuVgxotdw
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) May 14, 2017
Jackie didn’t stop pursuing further education. She enrolled in night school and picked classes that would allow her to take a baby to class, Bezos wrote in his prepared remarks:
She would show up with two duffel bags—one full of textbooks, and one packed with diapers, bottles, and anything that would keep me interested and quiet for a few minutes.
After Jackie sent her own children to college, she ended up going back to school as well and graduated from the College of Saints Elizabeth when she was 40 years old, CNBC reported.
“Finally, after delays and setbacks, I feasted at the table of higher education. And boy did I feast. I was relentless. I devoured my classes,” she said in the same commencement speech.
2. Bezos’ Stepfather Came to the U.S. as a Refugee
Happy Father’s Day. You’re there for me always, and I feel it. I love you, Dad. pic.twitter.com/o85JWRSTBn
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) June 16, 2019
In one of those night school classes she took, Jackie met her future husband Miguel Bezos, according to CNBC. Miguel fled to the U.S. alone as a Cuban refugee when he was only 16 years old and didn’t speak any English when he first arrived, Jeff said.
Shortly after Fidel Castro took over Cuba, Miguel’s parents, who owned a lumber mill in Cuba, thought their son would be safer in the U.S. and sent him onto a plane that landed in Miami, according to an Amazon video.
Miguel was allowed to bring only a few things, including a jacket that was handmade by his mom, who thought America would be very cold. The jacket still hangs in Miguel’s dining room, according to Jeff’s prepared remarks.
After two weeks in a refugee center in Florida, Miguel was sent to Wilmington, Delaware, and enrolled in high school there. Living in a house run by Catholic charities, he picked up English very quickly and received a scholarship to attend the University of Albuquerque, where he met his wife. The couple married in 1968 when Jeff was four, CNBC reported.
Miguel could have spent one more year in college to finish a degree in mechanical engineering, but at the time he was to make a decision, he was already married and “needed to get a job,” according to the National Museum of American History. At the end of 1968, Miguel chose to graduate in math and computer science right away and soon took up a job at Exxon.
“He had an enormous amount of grit and determination, but he also had incredibly kind and supportive people to help guide him along the way. My dad’s story really shows that people help each other,” Jeff said in his tweet.
“It is truly unbelievable. I look back on my life and I had lived the American Dream 30 years ago. It is really just out of this world,” Miguel said in the same video.
Even though Miguel is not Jeff’s biological father, he raised him together with his wife. Jeff, who took Miguel’s last name when he was adopted, refers to him as his own father and often expresses his love and gratitude for Miguel on social media.
3. Bezos’ Biological Father Had a Troubling Past & Only Lived With Bezos Briefly
Bezos had an estranged relationship with his biological father Ted Jorgensen and rarely talked about him in public. Bezos told Bloomberg that the only time he thought about Jorgensen was when he was asked to fill out a medical form that involved family history.
He also said that he had never met his biological father, even though they lived together briefly before his mom filed a divorce. The last time Bezos saw Jorgensen, was when he was three years old, according to Bloomberg.
Born in 1944 to a Baptist family in Chicago, Jorgensen moved to Albuquerque when he was in elementary school. His father worked at Sandia Base, where Bezos’ maternal grandfather Lawrence Preston Gise also worked, and the two knew each other, Bloomberg reported.
Jorgensen started dating Jackie Bezos in high school and he was 18 when Jackie got pregnant. When they got married, both of their mothers had to sign the application for a marriage license because Jackie was underage, according to Bloomberg.
Jorgensen, who the Bloomberg said “was a circus performer and one of Albuquerque’s best unicyclists in the 1960s,” didn’t earn much and was bothered by alcoholism. He also had a habit of staying out too late, and was an “inattentive dad and husband,” Bloomberg wrote.
The marriage came to an end in 1965. The court ordered Jorgensen, who earned $180 a month at that time, to pay $40 a month in child support, Bloomberg said. But he missed many payments over the next few years.
4. Jorgensen Didn’t Know Bezos Was His Son Until 2012 & Said He ‘Wasn’t a Good Father or Husband at all’
When Jackie married Miguel in 1968, she told Jorgensen he could stop paying child support and asked him to stay away from her new life. She also asked for Jorgensen’s permission to let Miguel adopt their son and let him take his stepfather’s last name, Bloomberg reported. Jorgensen agreed. As time went by, he lost contact with the family and forgot about the name “Bezos.”
Jorgensen didn’t know his son was the founder and CEO of Amazon until 2012, when Bloomberg reporter Brad Stone found him in his bike shop in Glendale, Arizona. Stone wrote that Jorgensen was shocked to find out Jeff Bezos was his biological son.
“I didn’t know where he was, if he had a good job or not, or if he was alive or dead,” he told Stone. “I wasn’t a good father or a husband,” he added. “It was really all my fault. I don’t blame Jackie at all.”
Jorgensen told Stone that he had always wanted to reconnect with his only son, no matter who he was and what he did for a living. Stone wrote that he seemed ashamed for staying out of his son’s life almost the entire time.
According to Stone, Jorgensen lived in several cities and took different jobs before he finally settled down in Pheonix in 1974 and quit drinking. He remarried a woman named Linda, and had four stepsons.
Jorgensen owned a bike shop for 35 years until he died in 2015.
5. Bezos’ Grandfather Was a Civil Servant Who Worked on Space Technology & Missile Defense System & Was an Inspiration to Bezos
Bezos’ maternal grandfather Lawrance Preston Gise played an important in his life and Bezos said he learned “different lessons” from his grandparents.
According to Bezos’ prepared remarks, Gise was a civil servant who worked on space technology and missile defense system during the 1950s and the 1960s for the Atomic Energy Commission, a federal agency created in 1946 to manage post-war nuclear weapon development.
Bezos learned to be a problem-solver from his grandfather. He said in his prepared remarks that he spent his summers from four to 16 on his grandparents’ ranch in Texas and saw Gise’s resourcefulness:
As a kid, I got to see him solve many seemingly unsolvable problems himself, whether he was restoring a broken-down Caterpillar bulldozer or doing his own veterinary work. He taught me that you can take on hard problems. When you have a setback, you get back up and try again. You can invent your way to a better place.
I took these lessons to heart as a teenager, and became a garage inventor. I invented an automatic gate closer out of cement-filled tires, a solar cooker out of an umbrella and tinfoil, and alarms made from baking pans to entrap my siblings.
Before Bezos realized it, Gise was already influencing his life. He and his wife gave money to their daughter and Jorgensen so that they could fly to Mexico for a wedding ceremony, Bloomberg reported.
He also negotiated with her daughter’s high school and helped her stay to finish her education, despite her pregnancy, according to Bezos.
When Jorgensen was troubled by his drinking problems and a low income, he tried to help his son-in-law. He paid for Jorgensen’s education at the University of New Mexico and later tried to get him a job with the state police, Bloomberg reported. However, Jorgensen dropped out of college after a few semesters and was disinterested in the police job.
In 1968, when Bezos’ mother remarried, Gise “confronted” Jorgensen and “made him promise to stay away,” according to Bloomberg.
READ MORE: Jeff Bezos Net Worth: How He Made His Money