A native of Beckley, West Virginia, Carper graduated from Ohio State University. Serving as a Naval Flight Officer in the U.S. Navy from 1968 until 1973, he flew the P-3 Orion as a Tactical Coordinator/Mission Commander and saw active duty in the Vietnam War. After leaving the active duty Navy, he remained in the U.S. Naval Reserve for another 18 years and eventually retired with the rank of Captain (O-6). Upon receiving his MBA from the University of Delaware in 1975, Carper went to work for the State of Delaware in its economic development office. He was elected State Treasurer, serving from 1977 to 1983 and leading the development of Delaware's first cash management system.
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