Ex-Pennsylvania Gov. Dick Thornburgh, who later became US attorney general, dead at 88

The year ended on a sad note for those who knew and loved former GOP Pennsylvania Gov. Dick Thornburgh.

According to his son, David, the 88-year-old — who also served as U.S. attorney general, among other positions — died at a retirement facility near Pittsburgh, Fox News reported.

A life of public service

The younger Thornburgh made the announcement on Thursday, though a cause of death was not included. Fox noted that the ex-governor sustained a mild stroke about six years ago.

After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, he entered public service upon being appointed by President Richard Nixon in 1969 to serve as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, later becoming an assistant U.S. attorney general under President Gerald Ford.

As governor, Thornburgh rose to national prominence in 1979 for his response to a partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear facility near Harrisburg, which remains the nation’s most serious nuclear accident.

Nine years later, President Ronald Reagan picked him to take over as attorney general, replacing Edwin Meese III in the wake of revelations related to the Iran-Contra scandal.

Thornburgh held that position under President George H.W. Bush and pursued a range of high-profile crimes, including drug trafficking charges against Manuel Noriega, who was deposed in 1989 during the U.S. invasion of Panama.

“The day-in, day-out challenges”

In 1991, Thornburgh stepped down from the Justice Department to mount an unsuccessful U.S. Senate bid against Democratic Rep. William H. Gray.

After largely exiting the public realm, he went on to work on a number of investigations and projects, such as an attempt to reform the United Nations and a probe of alleged crimes within the telecommunications firm WorldCom.

In 1999, the Associated Press quoted Thornburgh as saying that he has “always had an opportunity to right a vessel that was somewhat listing and taking on water.”

Referring to a nickname he came to embody throughout his lengthy career, he said at the time that he “wouldn’t object to being characterized as a ‘Mr. Fix It,'” confirming that he has “liked the day-in, day-out challenges of governance.”

He is survived by four children, six grandchildren, and his wife, Ginny, whom he married in 1963 after his first wife died in a car crash, according to reports.

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