Who is JD Vance's grandmother? Ohio Republican senator thanks his 'Mamaw' in victory speech

'Hillbilly Elegy' author and Republican senator JD Vance thanked his grandma after Ohio win

Who is JD Vance's grandmother? Ohio Republican senator thanks his 'Mamaw' in victory speech
JD Vance speaks to supporters at an election watch party at the Renaissance Hotel on November 8, 2022, in Columbus, Ohio (Andrew Spear/Getty Images)
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COLUMBUS, OHIO: Author of the 2016 best-selling book 'Hillbilly Elegy' and newly appointed Republican senator in Ohio, JD Vance, expressed gratitude to his grandmother "Mamaw" in his victory speech Tuesday night, Nov 8. Vance's mother and father divorced when he was a toddler, and he was adopted by his mother's third husband shortly thereafter. However, he and his sister were raised and cared for primarily by his grandparents, James, and Bonnie Vance, whom they called "Mamaw and Papaw," while his mother suffered from substance abuse.

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Vance's grandparents played a pivotal role in his life and later inspired his autobiographical book 'Hillbilly Elegy,' which was later made into a film by Ron Howard. "I will never forget the woman who raised me," Vance said in his victory speech, referring to his grandmother, played in the film by Glenn Close. The new lawmaker also said he will never forget where he came from, referring to his humble origins in Middletown, Ohio, where he grew up as a blue-collar worker.

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Glenn Close in 'Hillbilly Elegy' (IMDb)
Glenn Close played Bonnie Vance, JD Vance's grandmother in movie 'Hillbilly Elegy' (IMDb)

Vance's fame skyrocketed after his book was published in 2016. The book paints a picture of his family's Appalachian values in Kentucky and the social and socioeconomic issues of his hometown, where his mother's parents moved when they were young. Vance made a big mark in his burgeoning political career after defeating his Democratic opponent, Tim Ryan, for the Ohio seat. Ryan raised a whopping $48.1 million for his campaign, while Vance raised just $12.8 million.

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He went on to attend Ohio State University before heading to Yale Law School. There, he met the love of his life, Usha Chilukuri, the daughter of Indian immigrants, whom he later married. He worked for a venture capital fund named Mithril Capital, which was started by Peter Thiel. The 38-year-old is also likely grateful to have earned Trump's endorsement which augmented him from third place to first in the Ohio primary despite telling interviewer Charlie Rose once he was a "Never Trump guy" and "never liked him". 

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Republican U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance embraces his wife Usha Vance after winning the primary, at an election night event at Duke Energy Convention Center on May 3, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Vance, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, narrowly won over former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, according to published reports.
Republican US Senate candidate JD Vance embraces his wife Usha Vance after winning the primary, at an election night event at Duke Energy Convention Center on May 3, 2022, in Cincinnati, Ohio (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Things have changed a lot since then as Vance embraced former President Trump and heaped praise on Trump, saying "the best president of my lifetime" in April. He even backed Trump's unfounded claims that the election was stolen in favor of President Joe Biden. "I think the fundamental problem is we had a massive effort to shift the election by very powerful people in this country," he said in January. "I don’t care whether you say it’s rigged, whether you say it’s stolen, like, I’ll say what I’m going to say about it."

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(L-R) J.D. Vance, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Ohio, shakes hands with former President Donald Trump during a rally hosted by the former president at the Delaware County Fairgrounds on April 23, 2022 in Delaware, Ohio. Last week, Trump announced his endorsement of J.D. Vance in the Ohio Republican Senate primary.
JD Vance shakes hands with former President Donald Trump during a rally hosted by the former president at the Delaware County Fairgrounds on April 23, 2022, in Delaware, Ohio (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Who is JD Vance's grandmother? 

JD Vance's grandmother, Bonnie Vance, whom Vance affectionally called "Mamaw" is one of the most influential figures in his life. When his mother, Beverly Vance was spiraling out of control with addiction, Vance's grandmother and grandfather looked after him and his sister and provided them with all the necessities required at that time. JD even adopted the surname Vance in honor of his grandparents despite going by the name James Hamel, his stepfather's surname, initially. 

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Vance wrote about how his grandmother always pushed him to the limits to bring out the best in him so that he can succeed and get out of small-town Ohio and make his way to a university. "We didn’t have cell phones, and we didn’t have nice clothes, but Mamaw made sure that I had one of those graphing calculators," he wrote in his book 'Hillbilly Elegy.' He joked about his grandmother's vocabulary, saying, "If we could wheel her up here today, she would drop probably about five F-bombs on national TV", during his victory speech last night. "Even today, I still regret that far too many high school friends and acquaintances never knew Mamaw was the best thing that ever happened to me," he wrote about his grandmother. 

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