The Dick Thornburgh Papers

The Collection

pennsylvania Constitutional Convention (1967–1968)

Extent: 9 linear feet

Following rather close on the heels of the ’66 campaign for U.S. Congress, yet another Thornburgh campaign got under way. Despite his loss Thornburgh, in fact, found himself more captivated with politics than ever. Newly elected Pennsylvania Governor Raymond P. Shafer made constitutional reform a priority for his administration, and voters were asked in the May 1967 primary to call a limited Constitutional Convention. Thornburgh’s long-standing interest in judicial reform and his then-developing concerns about local government tempted him to run in his own 43rd District, although heavily Democratic. Thornburgh’s successful campaign for delegate and subsequent participation at the Constitutional Convention are well documented here as well as the workings of the convention, which the press quickly dubbed “Con Con.” To date this remains Pennsylvania's most recent Constitutional Convention.

There were four specific areas for which constitutional amendments were to be considered: finance and taxation, the judiciary, legislative reapportionment, and local government. The convention opened on December 1, 1967 and continued for three months, during which time Thornburgh commuted back and forth between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. Following the convention’s closing on February 28, 1968, he participated in efforts to enact the resultant four proposals in the May 6 primary, particularly the judicial article, and embarked on a vigorous speaking tour to solicit voter support. Although all four were successfully passed in the primary, unfortunately the next year the watered-down judicial merit selection plan was defeated in a separate referendum. To date, Thornburgh has continued to be an active proponent of merit selection as evidenced in ongoing articles and op-eds.

Home rule is a topic somewhat surprisingly very well documented here, a topic with which Thornburgh has maintained continuous interest up to and including the passage in 1998 of Pittsburgh’s home rule charter. His 1969 article “Blueprint for Modern Government: A Home Rule Charter for Pittsburgh” is a “package of recommendations—some of which, years later, were actually included in the Pittsburgh charter—[which] received a good deal of publicity and editorial approval” (Evidence, p. 36).

“All of us who participated in this historic gathering took great satisfaction in our accomplishments. After years of only talking about the political process, I had finally been able to be a central participant in the ‘nuts and bolts’ of a significant government effort. ... I arrived home ... anxious to seek out the next challenge” (Evidence draft, p. 126).

The files are in twelve sections: "Background Reports and Articles"; "Campaign for and Delegate to Con Con"; "Convention Opening and Procedures"; "Convention Committees"; "Judiciary Committee Working Files"; "Judiciary Committee Subcommittees"; "Delegate Thornburgh’s Files"; "Clippings, Editorials, and Bulletins"; "Home Rule"; "Efforts to Implement Judiciary Article"; "Thornburgh’s Working Copies of Manuals, Proposals, and Hearings"; and "Hardcover Publications of Con Con."


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