Harper Peterson grew up in New York State and attended college at the University of North Carolina, where he excelled in sports. After teaching school in Thailand for two years, he returned to the United States where he settled in Wrightsville Beach, married, and began raising a family. Peterson has served on the City Council and as Mayor of Wilmington. He is active in the 1898 Council and Commemoration, as well as being a champion for the education of African American members of the community. He also owns several local businesses, including a popular restaurant on Water Street which showcases up-and-coming musicians. Most recently, Peterson brought a championship soccer team to Wilmington, which infused an estimated seven million dollars into the local economy.