Pierre S. du Pont IV

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Pierre S. du Pont IV
Petedupont.jpg
68th Governor of Delaware
In office
January 18, 1977 – January 15, 1985
Lieutenant James D. McGinnis
Michael N. Castle
Preceded by Sherman W. Tribbitt
Succeeded by Michael N. Castle
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Delaware's At-large district
In office
January 3, 1971 – January 3, 1977
Preceded by William V. Roth, Jr.
Succeeded by Thomas B. Evans, Jr.
Personal details
Born Pierre Samuel du Pont IV
(1935-01-22) January 22, 1935 (age 79)
Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Elise Ravenel Wood
Residence Wilmington, Delaware and North Haven, Maine
Alma mater Princeton University
Harvard Law School
Profession lawyer
Religion Episcopalian

Pierre Samuel "Pete" du Pont IV (born January 22, 1935) is an American lawyer and politician from Rockland, in New Castle County, Delaware, near Wilmington. He was the United States Representative for Delaware from 1971 to 1977 and subsequently served as the 68th Governor of Delaware from 1977 to 1985. He is a member of the Republican Party.

Early life and family[edit]

See also: Du Pont family

A member of the famous and powerful Du Pont family, du Pont was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the son of Pierre S. du Pont III and Jane Holcomb du Pont, and great nephew of Pierre S. du Pont, the developer of Longwood Gardens. After an education at the Phillips Exeter Academy, Princeton University, and Harvard Law School, he served in the U.S. Naval Reserve (Seabees) from 1957 until 1960. He is married to Elise Ravenel Wood and has four children, Elise, Pierre S. du Pont V, Benjamin Franklin du Pont, and Eleuthère Irénée.

Professional and political career[edit]

From 1963 until 1970 du Pont was employed by E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. In 1968 he was elected to the 1969-70 session of the Delaware House of Representatives. He seriously considered a bid for a United States Senate seat in 1972 (eventually won by Democrat Joseph R. Biden, Jr.), but realized he faced a primary election against former U.S. Representative Harry G. Haskell, Jr. He bowed to the desire of Republican leaders, including U.S. President Richard M. Nixon, to have a reluctant incumbent U.S. Senator J. Caleb Boggs seek a third term.

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

In 1970 du Pont was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, defeating Democrat John D. Daniello, a New Castle County Councilman and labor leader. He won election to the U.S. House of Representatives two more times, defeating Democrats Norma Handloff in 1972 and University of Delaware professor James R. Soles in 1974. In Congress, du Pont supported an attempt to limit presidential authority through the War Powers Act of 1973, but was one of the last to remain loyal to U.S. President Richard M. Nixon during the impeachment process.

Governor of Delaware[edit]

Du Pont did not seek another term in the U.S. House of Representatives as he was elected Governor of Delaware in 1976, defeating incumbent Democratic Governor Sherman W. Tribbitt. He was elected to a second term as Governor in 1980, defeating Democratic State House leader William J. Gordy, and served two terms from January 18, 1977 until January 15, 1985.

Governor du Pont IV with Adjutant General of Delaware National Guard

Du Pont's two terms as Governor were the major divide in the modern history of the state. Following a desperate initial confrontation with the Democratic Delaware General Assembly over the budget, both du Pont and the Delaware General Assembly developed the consensus approach to decision making so characteristic of Delaware politics to this day. As a result of this cooperation, du Pont signed into law two income tax reduction measures and a constitutional amendment that restrained future tax increases and limited government spending. The Wilmington News Journal praised these policies, saying that "he revived [the] business climate and set the stage for [Delaware's] prosperity." In 1979, he founded the nonprofit "Jobs for Delaware Graduates," an employment counseling and job placement program for high school seniors not bound for college. This program was the model for other programs currently functioning in many states and foreign countries.

Du Pont helped establish the credit card industry in Delaware. With the cooperation of the leadership of both parties and many others in state and local government, the Financial Center Development Act was passed, effective June 1, 1981. Intended to attract two New York state banks that would hire at least 1,000 employees, it actually brought over thirty banks to the state and created some 43,000 new finance related jobs. Wilmington and the rest of New Castle County, were completely transformed. Du Pont's action led the state away from its previous dependence on the chemical industry in general and the Du Pont Company, in particular.


Delaware General Assembly
(sessions while Governor)
Year Assembly Senate Majority President
pro tempore
House Majority Speaker
1977–1978 129th Democratic Richard S. Cordrey Democratic Kenneth W. Boulden
John P. Ferguson
1979–1980 130th Democratic Richard S. Cordrey Republican Robert W. Riddagh
1981–1982 131st Democratic Richard S. Cordrey Republican Charles L. Hebner
1983–1984 132nd Democratic Richard S. Cordrey Democratic Orlando J. George, Jr.

Presidential aspirations[edit]

With his term as Governor forced by law to end in 1985, du Pont, as the dominant Delaware politician, was widely expected by many to challenge the incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Biden. But du Pont had little interest in legislative politics and declined to run, preparing instead for a long shot bid for the Republican U.S. Presidential nomination in the 1988 election. He declared his intent on September 16, 1986, before anyone else. Biden also sought his party's nomination.

Running in earnest through the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, du Pont presented an unconventional, but thoughtful program. As described by Celia Cohen in her book, Only in Delaware, du Pont, "wanted to reform Social Security by offering recipients private savings options in exchange for a corresponding reduction in government benefits. He proposed phasing out government subsidies for farmers. He said he would wean welfare clients off their benefits and get them into the workforce, even if government had to provide entry level jobs to get them started. He suggested students be subjected to mandatory, random drug tests with those who flunked losing their drivers [sic] licenses."[1] After finishing next to last in the New Hampshire primary, du Pont left the race.[citation needed]

Later career[edit]

In 1984 du Pont served as Chairman of the Education Commission of the States, a national organization of educators dedicated to improving all facets of American education. He has also served as Chairman of the Hudson Institute from 1985 until 1987 and the National Review Institute from 1994 until 1997.

Presently, du Pont is the Chairman of the Board for the National Center for Policy Analysis, a think tank based in Dallas, Texas; he is a director with the Wilmington, Delaware law firm of Richards, Layton, and Finger, and until May of 2014, he wrote the monthly Outside the Box column for the Wall Street Journal.


Public Offices
Office Type Location Began office Ended office notes
State Representative Legislature Dover January 14, 1969 January 3, 1971
U.S. Representative Legislature Washington January 3, 1971 January 3, 1973
U.S. Representative Legislature Washington January 3, 1973 January 3, 1975
U.S. Representative Legislature Washington January 3, 1975 January 3, 1977
Governor Executive Dover January 18, 1977 January 20, 1981
Governor Executive Dover January 20, 1981 January 15, 1985


Delaware General Assembly service
Dates Assembly Chamber Majority Governor Committees District
1969–1970 125th State House Republican Russell W. Peterson New Castle 12th


United States Congressional service
Dates Congress Chamber Majority President Committees Class/District
1971–1973 92nd U.S. House Democratic Richard M. Nixon at-large
1973–1975 93rd U.S. House Democratic Richard M. Nixon
Gerald R. Ford
at-large
1975–1977 94th U.S. House Democratic Gerald R. Ford at-large


Election results
Year Office Election Subject Party Votes % Opponent Party Votes %
1970 U.S. Representative General Pierre S. du Pont, IV Republican 86,125 54% John D. Daniello Democratic 71,429 46%
1972 U.S. Representative General Pierre S. du Pont, IV Republican 141,237 63% Norma Handloft Democratic 83,230 37%
1974 U.S. Representative General Pierre S. du Pont, IV Republican 93,826 58% James S. Soles Democratic 63,490 40%
1976 Governor General Pierre S. du Pont, IV Republican 130,531 57% Sherman W. Tribbitt Democratic 97,480 42%
1980 Governor General Pierre S. du Pont, IV Republican 159,004 71% William J. Gordy Democratic 64,217 29%

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Cohen, Celia. Only in Delaware, Politics and Politicians in the First State. 

References[edit]

  • Boyer, William W. (2000). Governing Delaware. Newark, Delaware: University of Delaware Press. ISBN 1-892142-23-6. 
  • Cohen, Celia (2002). Only in Delaware, Politics and Politicians in the First State. Newark, Delaware: Grapevine Publishing. 
  • Hoffecker, Carol E. (2004). Democracy in Delaware. Wilmington, Delaware: Cedar Tree Books. ISBN 1-892142-23-6. 
  • Martin, Roger A. (1984). History of Delaware Through its Governors. Wilmington, Delaware: McClafferty Press. 
  • Martin, Roger A. (1995). Memoirs of the Senate. Newark, Delaware: Roger A. Martin. 

External links[edit]

Places with more information[edit]


Political offices
Preceded by
Sherman W. Tribbitt
Governor of Delaware
1977-1985
Succeeded by
Michael Castle
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
William V. Roth, Jr.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Delaware's at-large congressional district

1971-1977
Succeeded by
Thomas B. Evans, Jr.