Monday, January 4, 2021

Dick Thornburgh



Former Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh died last week.  88 years old.  To say the man had an impressive resume would be an understatement-- U.S. Attorney, Governor, U.S. Attorney General, United Nations.  He should have been senator, but Thornburgh ran a weak campaign.  On the other side, Harris Wofford and James Carville were running a campaign based on promises they knew they couldn't keep.

Thornburgh gets high marks from both parties for the way he handled the Three Mile Island crisis.

Dick Thornburgh took office in 1979.  I started working in commercial radio in 1981, so he was my first governor as a "paid professional."

Back in the day, there was an 800 number sponsored by the state.  Radio stations could call it and download recorded sound bites from the governor to use on local newscasts.  I used it quite a bit at Marywood and WARM.  Thornburgh and his media people always had fresh material on the line.  Thornburgh's successor was a total opposite.  It was a rare day when you would find new "actualities."  I asked one of the people from the governor's media office about it.  He knew radio stations loved the 800 line, but I was told the successor was no Thornburgh.  You just couldn't put a microphone in front of him and ask questions.

While reading obituaries, I learned something new.  Thornburgh sold his Pittsburgh area home after he was elected governor and the Governor's Mansion in Harrisburg became his primary and only residence.  Because of that, Thornburgh worked with mid state officials to improve the city of Harrisburg and the surrounding towns.

CBS hired Thornburgh to investigate Dan Rather's botched report on George W. Bush's National Guard service.  Thornburgh's investigation confirmed that it was sloppy work, based on fraudulent documents.  The CBS story destroyed careers and the recklessness still blows my mind.

Dick Thornburgh wasn't a flamboyant politician with a spectacular and outgoing personality.  I think he will be remembered as a solid governor, a problem solver, and a decent human being.