The Dick Thornburgh Papers

The collection

Ongoing Career  (1993-)

Extent: 31 linear feet

Following his sojourn at the United Nations, at the end of February 1993, Dick Thornburgh returned to Washington, his twenty-five year career in public office at an end, and ready for what he termed a role as “useful citizen.”


The quest of a new baseball commissioner came his way in May 1993, and friends who knew of his long-standing love of baseball encouraged his interest. Although he survived several cuts, his final contribution to the matter was an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, in 1994 . Meanwhile, after scrutiny of alternatives, he decided to return, once again, to Kirkpatrick & Lockhart as counsel in their Washington Office.  That role has enabled Thornburgh to devote over half his time to clients, and yet retain the opportunity to pursue other outside interests developed over the years. 


These interests have been many and varied, most of which are well documented in these files and frequently draw on Thornburgh’s previous experience, both in government generally and at the United Nations in particular.  A major topic, for example, has been the rule of law in developing countries and others emerging from Soviet domination.  “If these nations were to see more democracy, respect for human rights and market-oriented economies…the rule of law was an absolute sine qua non.  Without it, free elections, corruption-free government and due process would be impossible….Thus I became a veritable missionary for the rule of law” (Evidence, p. 336).

The section here on foreign trips includes visits to Taiwan, Russia, and several to Hong Kong, all regarding the rule of law. Other trips to Guatemala (regarding governmental corruption), to Nigeria (regarding federalism, interstate relations and other governance issues), to Buenos Aires (on fighting corruption), are  also well documented.  In addition, other trips abroad concern his continued dedication to the rights of persons with disabilities, particularly in a return trip to Korea where Thornburgh and his wife, Ginny, discussed issues of religion and disability. “Our visit left us feeling that Korea had a long way to go in affording dignity to its citizens with disability, but we were heartened that so many people of goodwill, particularly within the religious communities, were trying to meet those challenges” (Evidence, p. 346).


Other challenges presented themselves, for example, examination of World Bank’s “mechanisms to deal with fraud and corruption connected with its lending” (Evidence, p. 347), and involvement with civil justice reform, growing out of a report on the subject prepared by the Department of Justice in 1991 for the President’s Council on Competitiveness. Thornburgh’s interest in science and technology which dated back to the Ben Franklin Partnership of Governor days further took center stage from early to mid 1990s, and concern about product liability and caps on punitive damages are well expressed in his op-eds on the subject, all of which are available here online.


Also, during the 1990s, he “embarked upon a new mini-career as a television ‘personality’…The first call came on July 6, 1994, from the producer of Larry King Live, asking if [he] would consider a guest appearance that night to discuss some of the legal issues in the O.J. Simpson case…One television appearance led to others; in total [he] appeared forty-five times on CNN to examine various aspects of the Simpson case” (Evidence, p. 352).  This led to further television appearances in connection with high-profile cases such as: murders of JonBenet Ramsey and Chandra Levy, President Clinton’s “misadventures” (Evidence, p. 353), and other appearances to discuss varying legal issues, over many years, on CNN’s Late Edition, hosted by Wolf Blitzer.  “Despite the sometimes long hours of preparation required to present accurate and well-informed views…I must acknowledge that the whole process of offering views on matters of concern to the nation via the talk show circuit was most satisfying.  It obliged me to keep on top of a variety of developments, and it was quite fulfilling to be asked my opinion on the issues of the day” (Evidence, p. 357).  Many of these appearances with Thornburgh’s handwritten notes in preparation are represented in these files and are particularly intriguing.

Throughout these years Thornburgh has spoken around the country, frequently including a plea for involvement in public life. What Thornburgh describes as his most comprehensive review of this subject was the Webb Lecture to the National Academy of Public Administration in November 1998. To this group he summed up: “Democracy is not a spectator sport. All of us must exercise the opportunity to contribute to improving and sustaining higher levels of performance in public life.  This involves much more than simply being part of a focus group or responding to poll questions.  And it is just as important in contests for the local school board as in those for higher office.”

In the fall of 2002, Thornburgh was appointed examiner in WorldCom bankruptcy, the largest in American history, resulting from nearly $11 billion misreported revenues and expenditures. The Dow Jones News Service headlined his appointment: “’Thornburgh Says WorldCom Probe Will Follow the Evidence Wherever It Leads’…so began yet another challenging adventure, which is going as I write [my autobiography]” (Evidence, p. 362).  The third and final report regarding WorldCom has been made available at Kirkpatrick & Lockhart.

The files in this final section document Dick Thornburgh’s ongoing and compelling career up to and including 2004.  There are eight sections: 1) Speeches and testimony; 2) Transcripts; 3) Foreign Trips; 4) Events; 5) Professional and civic work; 6) Larry King Live appearances; 7) Correspondence; and 8) Articles and news clippings. As Dick Thornburgh continues his career he will be contributing more files to his archive here at the University of Pittsburgh, which will be handled in additional sections at a future date.






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