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Dick Thornburgh, George H.W. Bush’s attorney general and Pennsylvania governor, dead at 88

By STORM GIFFORD

Dick Thornburgh, the Pennsylvania governor who helped ease the nerves of his panicked citizens during the near-disastrous 1979 Three Mile Island accident and later served as George H.W. Bush’s attorney general, has died at the age of 88.

Thornburgh died Thursday morning at a Pittsburgh-area retirement community, his son, David, confirmed to The Associated Press.

No cause of death was revealed although he did suffer a slight stroke in 2014.

Thornburgh served as a federal prosecutor battling organized crime and polluting steel companies before assuming the governorship in 1979.

Less than three months into his tenure, the partial meltdown of a nuclear reactor — which occurred just 12 days after the national release of the nuke thriller “The China Syndrome” — rattled the nation. He ordered young children and pregnant women living within five miles of the plant to evacuate.

Dick Thornburgh, shown in this 2014 photo, has died at the age of 88.
Dick Thornburgh, shown in this 2014 photo, has died at the age of 88. (Mark Pynes/AP)

Under his unflappable leadership, he not only allayed Pennsylvanians’ radioactivity fears but secured funds for the accident cleanup.

“The steady nature in which he guided Pennsylvania through one of its most dangerous crises . . . should serve as an example for all elected officials,” said current Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey.

After assuming the attorney general post for scandal-riddled Edwin Meese in the final months of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, he continued on with Bush.

One of his top priorities was prosecuting savings and loans operators and establishing security fraud task forces, according to The AP.

He also led the Justice Department’s prosecution of Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega for drug trafficking.

“I’ve always had an opportunity to right a vessel that was somewhat listing and taking on water,” he said in 1999. “I wouldn’t object to being characterized as a ‘Mr. Fix It.’ I’ve liked the day-in, day-out challenges of governance.”

Later, he would work for the United Nations in fighting bureaucratic corruption before returning briefly to the Justice Department to probe telecommunications company WorldCom.

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