Deval Patrick was born in Chicago, Illinois on July 31, 1956. His father, a musician, left the family while Patrick was young. Patrick was raised by his mother near the Robert Taylor Homes on Chicago's South Side. While in the eighth grade, Patrick was recruited into a program called A Better Chance, which provided scholarships to inner city students. After attending an elite private school, Milton Academy outside of Boston, Massachusetts, Patrick was accepted to Harvard University, where he earned his A.B. degree in English and American literature in 1978.
After graduating from Harvard, Patrick was awarded a Rockefeller Fellowship, where he worked for the United Nations, traveling and living in the Sudan. He returned to the United States in 1979, and enrolled in Harvard Law School, and earned his J.D. degree in 1982. After working as a clerk in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Los Angeles for a year, Patrick moved to New York City and joined the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. There, he met, and filed a lawsuit in a voting rights case against then Governor Bill Clinton He remained with the NAACP until 1986, when he joined the Boston law firm of Hill & Barlow, P.C. as a partner. He continued his civil rights work, and in 1994, President Clinton appointed Patrick to the position of assistant attorney general in charge of the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division. In this role, Patrick worked to ensure that federal laws banning discrimination were enforced. He also oversaw an investigation into a series of church burnings throughout the South.
In 1997, after three years with the Clinton Administration, Patrick returned to private practice with the Boston law firm of Day, Berry & Howard, where he focused his efforts on major commercial litigation and civil rights compliance issues. Patrick then joined Texaco in 1999 as vice president and general counsel, and in 2001, he became executive vice president, general counsel and secretary to the Coca-Cola Company, where he was responsible for the corporation's worldwide legal affairs. Patrick left Coca-Cola in December of 2004.
Patrick serves on the board of directors of Reebok International, Inc, Coca-Cola Enterprises, and A Better Chance, Inc. He is a trustee of the Ford Foundation, and sits on the board of overseers of Harvard University and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Patrick is also the recipient of numerous awards and seven honorary degrees.
He and his wife, Diane Beamus Patrick, have two children.