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On the seventh floor of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham’s K Street offices in Washington, D.C., a bronze bust of Abraham Lincoln sits atop a table behind Dick Thornburgh’s desk, peering at visitors over Thornburgh’s left shoulder. “Lincoln embodied the kind of qualities you look for in a leader,” Thornburgh says. “He was a genuine human being, he always had the right instincts, and he was a champion of the underdog.” Metaphorically, Thornburgh, 74, has lived his public life under Lincoln’s gaze. “He’s a man of integrity, and is always able to draw the line between partisanship and truth and objectivity,” says J. Michael Luttig, general counsel at The Boeing Company, who served as both assistant attorney general and counselor to the attorney general under Thornburgh. “He has tremendous credibility, and that’s something you have to earn over a lifetime.” Thornburgh was the nineteenth lawyer at Kirkpatrick & Lockhart when he joined the firm in 1959, two years out of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. A year after he joined the firm, his wife was killed in an auto accident in which their youngest son suffered a brain injury. “I realized then that you only have a finite amount of time on this earth,” he says. “You need to do as much as you can with it.” He remarried three years later and got involved in local Republican politics. In 1969 President Richard Nixon appointed Thornburgh U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania. He developed a reputation for ferreting out racketeering, white-collar crime, and corruption, successfully prosecuting several local officials as well as a member of Governor Milton Shapp’s administration. In 1975 Thornburgh moved to Washington, D.C, to head the U.S. Department of Justice’s criminal division. Three years later, he was elected governor of Pennsylvania, serving two terms. In 1988 President Ronald Reagan tapped him as attorney general. “He distinguished himself by being a real lawyer’s lawyer, and through his loyalty to the institution,” says William Barr, now general counsel at Verizon Communications Inc., who worked under Thornburgh at the Department of Justice and succeeded him as attorney general. “He knew the history of the Department of Justice and had a deep commitment to doing what’s right for the long-term integrity of the institution.” Staying on under George H.W. Bush, Thornburgh served as the point person for the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. He resigned as attorney general in 1991 to run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate. Since 1995 Thornburgh has been counsel in Kirkpatrick’s Washington, D.C., office. Those who worked with him cite Thornburgh’s sincerity. “It’s partly attributable to the tragedy he suffered, but he’s always had a tremendous amount of empathy,” Barr says. “Whenever we were talking about individuals, it always came out that he cared about people.” Luttig says Thornburgh still has plenty left in the tank. “I can’t even imagine that he’s in the twilight of his professional career,” he says. “It’s just a question of what he decides to do next.” Back to Main Story

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