The Dick Thornburgh Papers

The Collection

Politics (1960s–1970s)

Extent: 6 linear feet

It was after the 1964 presidential election when Lyndon Johnson (D) defeated Barry Goldwater (R) that Thornburgh’s participation in rebuilding the Republican Party became pronounced. In his book, Where the Evidence Leads, Thornburgh writes of a dinner party where his hostess responded to his political diatribe by suggesting that he “…do something about it.” He states that “over the next six weeks, I undertook a crash course in Practical Politics 101, [and by] studying census tracts and election results, I constructed a fairly reliable political profile of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, the extent of my immediate horizon” (Evidence, p. 22). These files are, in many ways, the documentary evidence of Thornburgh's research that resulted most notably in his article “The Republican Party in the City of Pittsburgh: A Tentative Analysis and Some Recommendations,” which was circulated privately among local and state party leaders and is available here online.

Subsequently Thornburgh was appointed to the GOP Platform Committee, became increasingly involved in political organizations, wrote other articles, and participated in many campaigns at the local and state levels. At the national level, Thornburgh was active with the John Lindsay campaigns for Congress and mayor of New York, and Nelson Rockefeller’s team recruited Thornburgh as its Western Pennsylvania chair in his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968. These varying campaign files provide an excellent look at politics of the time, particularly in Allegheny County.

Those interested in campaigns should also refer to the section titled “Campaign for U.S. Congress, 1966.” One of the results of all Thornburgh’s research was this determined campaign for Congress that is well documented in the archive. His loss was not surprising, running against a strong Democrat incumbent, but the experience served well to stimulate him into increasing political activity, particularly the Lindsay and Rockefeller campaigns, more national in import. The “Campaign for U.S. Congress” falls in the same time frame as these “Politics” files, but the campaign files are in such quantity and depth that they have been arranged separately.

Researchers should also note the unavoidable overlaps in time and even some content with files in “Early Legal Career,” “Pittsburgh Civic Activity,” “Campaign for U.S. Congress,” “ Constitutional Convention,” and “U.S. Attorney.” For example, correspondence in one section may well pertain to issues or situations in another area ,and political activity is represented in the “Campaign for U.S. Congress” as well as more generally here. Also valuable, Ginny Thornburgh put together scrapbooks of Thornburgh’s clippings that effectively document his increasingly public career and activities during these years. This valuable resource has been reformatted and is available in the archives (Scrapbooks).

The “Politics” files are organized into five sections: “GOP Committees and Activities,” “Research and Notes on Politics,” “Campaigns,” “John Lindsay Campaigns,” and “Rockefeller for President.”


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