Thomas (Tom) Ewing grew up in tiny Atlanta, Illinois in a farming family, and earned a law degree in 1968. From 1975 through 1991 he served in the Illinois House of Representatives, rooming with Dennis Hastert at the time. In 1991 he moved to the U.S. House of Representatives following a special election, once again rooming with Hastert. He represented Illinois' 15th district until 2000 during a period when the Republicans took control of the House in 1995, and during the fights over welfare reform and the budget. He voted to impeachment President Bill Clinton. He actively supported Hastert's successful bid to become Speaker in 1999.