Dick Thornburgh, a two-term Republican governor of Pennsylvania who coped with America’s worst nuclear power meltdown at Three Mile Island in 1979 and later served as United States attorney general under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, died on Thursday December 31 2020 at a retirement home in Oakmont, Pa., outside Pittsburgh. He was 88.
Born on July 16, 1932 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Yale University in 1954 and earned his LL.B degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1957.
Following law school, Mr. Thornburgh worked in private industry until 1959 when he joined the Pittsburgh law firm then known as Kirkpatrick & Lockhart. In 1967, he was elected as a delegate to the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention. From 1969 to 1975, Mr. Thornburgh was the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania and was appointed Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division in 1975, serving two years in Washington, D.C. in that role before returning to private practice as a partner at Kirkpatrick & Lockhart. Pennsylvania elected Mr. Thornburgh governor in 1979 and he served two terms. Mr. Thornburgh also taught courses at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government and directed that school’s Institute of Politics from 1987 to 1988.
Appointed by President Reagan, Richard Thornburgh was sworn in as Attorney General on August 12, 1988. President George H.W. Bush reinstated him as Attorney General in 1989 and he served until 1991.
Mr. Thornburgh had married Virginia Hooton, his childhood sweetheart, in 1955 and had three sons with her, John, David and Peter. She was killed in 1960 in a car accident that left Peter permanently brain damaged. In 1963, Mr. Thornburgh married Ginny Judson, with whom he had a fourth son, William.
In addition to his son David, Mr. Thornburgh is survived by Ms. Judson; his other sons; six grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.