Dick Thornburgh, former Pennsylvania governor and US attorney general, dies at 88

A longtime Republican official who held two high-profile positions during his career has died at the age of 88, according to reports.

Dick Thornburgh, the former governor of Pennsylvania and former U.S. attorney general, died on Thursday at a retirement facility near Pittsburgh, as reported by Politico.

No cause of death announced

Thornburgh’s son, David, confirmed the news in a statement. The cause of his death was not announced.

According to Politico, the prominent Republican’s long political career began in the 1960s and his first major position came a few years later when he became the U.S. attorney for Western Pennslyvania. In that role, he became known for prosecuting corrupt politicians and organized crime figures.

By 1975, he was an assistant U.S. attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s criminal division. While in that position, he led prosecutions of alleged public corruption in the wake of the Watergate scandal, Politico noted.

A few years later, Thornburgh was elected governor. He held that position from 1979 until 1987, gaining notoriety not only for his emphasis on fiscal responsibility but for the way his administration handled the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster.

An equipment failure at the Three Mile Island power plant released radioactive elements into the air throughout the Harrisburg area. After ordering the evacuation of pregnant women and children in the region, Thornburgh earned widespread praise for preventing a mass panic with his decisive leadership.

“A life worth celebrating”

President Ronald Reagan later appointed the ex-governor to be U.S. attorney general during the final months of his administration, as Fox News reported.

Thornburgh continued to serve in that capacity under the administration of President George H.W. Bush until 1991, earning a reputation for his campaign against crime.

His next political move was a U.S. Senate bid, which he ended up losing. After later spending some time working to fight corruption and excess at the United Nations, he reportedly abandoned that role in the face of what appeared to be an impossible task.

In subsequent years, Thornburgh was called upon to help with various investigations, including a CBS News probe into fake documents used to support a 2004 story questioning President George W. Bush’s military service.

Tom Ridge, another former Republican Pennsylvania governor, shared his thoughts upon learning of Thornburgh’s death, tweeting: “Dick Thornburgh led a life worth celebrating. His public service was a model of integrity and character that anyone seeking office would be wise to follow. A remarkable public servant and an even better man. Michele and I send condolences to Ginny and the Thornburgh family.”

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