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Dick Thornburgh

Gov. Dick Thornburgh

  • January 16, 1979 - January 20, 1987
  • Republican
  • July 16, 1932
  • Pennsylvania
  • Yale University, University of Pittsburgh School of Law
  • Married Virginia Walton Judson; four children
  • Cabinet secretary


DICK THORNBURGH was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and graduated from Yale University with a degree in civil engineering and from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. He was a practicing attorney in Pittsburgh for twelve years before being named U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, a position in which he served from 1969 until 1975, when he became head of the U.S. Justice Department’s Criminal Division. He remained with the Justice Department until 1977 and ran successfully for governor the following year. Thornburgh balanced the state budget each year during his two gubernatorial terms, reduced personal and business tax rates, cut the state’s record high indebtedness, and left a surplus of $350 million. In addition, economic development, education, and welfare reform programs were implemented during Thornburgh’s administration, and the state’s unemployment rate, which had been among the ten highest in the nation when he was elected, dropped to being among the ten lowest when he left office. Thornburgh was instrumental in establishing the Ben Franklin program, which was founded in 1983 to support the development of high technology companies in Pennsylvania. He also chaired the Republican Governors Association and the Coalition of Northeastern Governors. In 1988 Thornburgh was appointed U.S. Attorney General, a position in which he served under both President Ronald Reagan and President George H.W. Bush, focusing on battling white-collar crime, hate crime, drug trafficking, money laundering, and terrorism; and enforcing anti-trust and environmental laws. He went on to serve as Undersecretary-General at the United Nations (1992-1993), in charge of personnel, budget, and finance matters. He has served as a consultant to the United Nations and the World Bank on efforts to fight fraud and corruption, and was an observer to Russia’s legislative and presidential elections in 1993 and 1996, respectively.


Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission

Who’s Who in America, 2006, Vol. 2. New Providence, NJ: Marquis Who’s Who, 2005.

Governors of the American States, Commonwealths, and Territories, National Governors Association, 1986.

State Archives Holdings: MG-404 Dick Thornburgh Papers

University of Pittsburgh: The Dick Thornburgh Papers

Recent Pennsylvania Governors