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Governor john thornburgh served two terms in Pennsylvania and was widely recognized for his efforts to improve the state’s economy. He also enacted welfare reform programs and helped consolidate all of the state’s colleges and universities into a single system.
Thornburgh’s career also included serving as the United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania and a stint as Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
Early Life and Education
The son of Henry Thornburgh and Ann Maulsby, john and his twin brother Henry were born on March 30, 1809 in Lost Creek, Tennessee. Their parents relocated to Indiana in 1819, where they grew up and homesteaded land.
After graduating from Yale University, he practiced law in Pittsburgh and became United States Attorney for Western Pennsylvania (1969-1975). He was an assistant attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, emphasizing efforts against major drug traffickers and organized crime.
Thornburgh served as Governor of Pennsylvania ( 1979-1987), Attorney General of the United States (1988-1991), and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations for Administration and Management (1992-1993). He is a Life Trustee of the Urban Institute and a Trustee Emeritus of the University of Pittsburgh, the Gettysburg Foundation and the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh.
Thornburgh held a variety of positions in the public sector during his career, including Governor of Pennsylvania, U.S. Attorney General under Presidents Reagan and Bush, and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations.
He was elected to two terms as Governor of Pennsylvania in 1978 and 1982, recognized by fellow governors as one of the nation’s most effective big-state governors in a 1986 Newsweek poll. He also served as a director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University.
He specializes in patent litigation and appeals. He regularly handles matters in state and federal courts and before the International Trade Commission. He has delivered victories for clients in numerous “make or break” cases and played a key role in precedent-setting cases establishing new standards for patent damages.
Achievements and Honors
During his career, john thornburgh held a number of high-profile positions. He served as Governor of Pennsylvania (1979-1987), Attorney General of the United States (1988-1991) and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations (1992-4).
As a governor, Thornburgh led a series of successful initiatives that significantly improved Pennsylvania’s economy. He also implemented a variety of welfare reform programs and expanded the state’s school system.
As Attorney General, he pushed for the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act and fought racial, religious and ethnic “hate crimes.” He also mounted a renewed effort to enforce the nation’s antitrust and environmental laws.
john thornburgh was a prominent figure in American politics. He was Governor of Pennsylvania, the first Republican to serve two successive terms in that office, and was recognized by his fellow governors as one of the nation’s most effective big-state governors in a 1986 Newsweek poll.
He was an early ally in the fight for disability rights, access and inclusion. He was a delegate to the 1967 constitutional convention and he served as Attorney General of the United States under Presidents Reagan and George H. W. Bush and as Under-Secretary General of the United Nations during a public career that spanned over 25 years.
During his long career, he traveled widely and met with leaders from over 40 countries including Canada, Mexico, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Russia, Ukraine, Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea, India and Cambodia. He also served as an observer to the Russian Federation’s first legislative (1993) and presidential (1996) elections.
A distinguished public official, Thornburgh served as Governor of Pennsylvania, a delegate to the 1967 constitutional convention and U.S. attorney general, as well as under-secretary-general of the United Nations during a 25-year career that spanned four decades.
As the former Attorney General, he mounted vigorous attacks against international drug traffickers and organized crime, as well as corrupt defense contractors and a variety of other white-collar criminals. He also helped establish strong ties with law enforcement agencies around the world to combat money laundering, terrorism and other forms of international crime. Following his tenure, he re-entered private practice at K&L Gates where he was the firm’s global counsel until retirement in 2002. He subsequently became an Examiner in the bankruptcy proceedings for WorldCom, the largest corporate filing ever, to report on fraud and mismanagement that led to its collapse.