RICHARD LEWIS THORNBURGH
Of Oakmont, PA, died peacefully of natural causes on Thursday December 31, 2020. Dick Thornburgh committed his life to the rule of law, service to his community, state and nation, and devotion to his family. His public service career included contributions as Governor of Pennsylvania, U.S. Attorney General and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Born in Rosslyn Farms on July 16, 1932, he received a civil engineering degree from Yale University and a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh. Dick launched his professional career in Pittsburgh in 1958 as an attorney with the predecessor firm of K&L Gates – commencing a lifelong association with this now international law firm. In the 1960s, Dick started his involvement in government and politics, which included election as a delegate to Pennsylvania's Constitutional Convention, running unsuccessfully for the U.S. Congress, and actively working with a number of civic and community organizations.
In 1969, Dick was named by President Richard Nixon as the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, beginning a series of leadership roles over the next several decades at the U.S. Department of Justice, which ultimately included appointments as Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division under President Gerald Ford and U.S. Attorney General under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Dick was elected as Pennsylvania's 41st Governor in 1978, and served two terms as the Commonwealth's chief executive. Dick was credited with cleaning up a state government left in disarray by numerous scandals and financial crises by applying strong fiscal discipline and recruiting a cabinet and leadership team of exceptional professionals. Early in his administration, Dick's leadership skills were tested by the unprecedented accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant. His calm but decisive approach to reassuring the public and resolving the immediate threat was nationally praised as a model in crisis management.
As Attorney General, Dick's signature accomplishment was working to pass and implement the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. This milestone legislation has been heralded as the "civil rights act" for citizens with disabilities. As parents of a son with significant disability, Dick's lifelong advocacy for children and adults with disabilities was shared by his wife Ginny.
After his service in Washington, Dick was named as Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, where he applied his management expertise to improving administrative and fiscal operations. Following an unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate in 1991, Dick returned to the private practice of law at K&L Gates, where he supported high-profile investigations of corporate and individual wrongdoing. He also devoted significant time and energy to the Dick Thornburgh Forum on Law and Public Policy at the University of Pittsburgh, which was established in 2007 to promote principled governance and the value of bipartisan public service.
Over the course of his life, Dick received numerous accolades, included honorary degrees from 32 colleges and universities. Beyond all of this deserving recognition, he took his greatest pleasure from his wife and family. Ginny Thornburgh, who he married in 1963 following the death in 1960 of his first wife Virginia Hooton Thornburgh, was truly his lifelong partner. Ginny and Dick had a remarkable journey together, made even more special by the time spent with children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. To Dick, there was no greater joy than holding a baby or interacting with his family. Dick and Ginny travelled the world together and met countless dignitaries – but he was most comfortable eating a peanut butter sandwich, reading books, listening to music, watching classic movies and following his beloved Pittsburgh Pirates.
Dick was a man of great personal faith, whose Christian beliefs permeated his life and work. He was guided by a favorite quote – "If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?"
In addition to his wife, Dick is survived by four sons: John (Sharon), David (Rebecca), Peter and William. The Thornburgh’s have six grandchildren: Kendall (Andrew Coleman), Richard (Samantha), Devon, Bradford, Blair (Josh Maxwell) and Alice (Eric Lind). They are also blessed with five great-grandchildren: Charlotte, Ellie, Maddie, Jack and Julia.
Family services will be private. A public celebration of Dick's life will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are suggested to the Children's Institute of Pittsburgh (https://www.amazingkids.org/giving) or the Dick Thornburgh Forum for Law and Public Policy at the University of Pittsburgh (http://pi.tt/thlpp).
Arrangements by John A. Freyvogel Sons Inc. (freyvogelfuneralhome.com).