|39th Vice President of the United States|
January 20, 1969 – October 10, 1973
|Preceded by||Hubert Humphrey|
|Succeeded by||Gerald Ford|
|55th Governor of Maryland|
January 25, 1967 – January 7, 1969
|Preceded by||J. Millard Tawes|
|Succeeded by||Marvin Mandel|
|Baltimore County Executive|
|Preceded by||Christian H. Kahl|
|Succeeded by||Dale Anderson|
|Born||Spiro Theodore Agnew
November 9, 1918
|Died||September 17, 1996
|Resting place||Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens
James Rand Agnew
|Alma mater||Johns Hopkins University
University of Baltimore School of Law
|Religion||Episcopalian (raised Greek Orthodox)|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1941–1945|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Awards||Bronze Star Medal|
Spiro Theodore Agnew (/ /; November 9, 1918 – September 17, 1996) was an American politician who served as the 39th Vice President of the United States from 1969 to 1973, serving under President Richard Nixon.
Agnew was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and was a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and University of Baltimore School of Law. He was drafted into the United States Army in 1941, serving as an officer during World War II, and was recalled for service during the Korean War in 1950. Agnew worked as an aide for U.S. Representative James Devereux before he was appointed to the Baltimore County Board of Zoning Appeals in 1957. He lost election for the Baltimore City Circuit Court in 1960, but was later elected Baltimore County Executive in 1962. In 1966, Agnew was elected the 55th Governor of Maryland, defeating his Democratic opponent George P. Mahoney. He was the first Greek American to hold the position, serving between 1967 and 1969.
At the 1968 Republican National Convention, Agnew was nominated for Vice President; he ran alongside the party's presidential nominee, former Vice President Richard Nixon. Nixon and Agnew defeated the incumbent Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Senator Edmund Muskie, in the 1968 presidential election. In 1972, Nixon and Agnew were reelected for a second term, defeating Senator George McGovern and Ambassador Sargent Shriver.
In 1973, Agnew was investigated by the United States Attorney's office for the District of Maryland, on charges of extortion, tax fraud, bribery, and conspiracy. He was charged with having accepted bribes totaling more than $100,000 while holding office as Baltimore County Executive, Governor of Maryland, and later Vice President. On October 10 that same year, Agnew was allowed to plead no contest to a single charge that he had failed to report $29,500 of income received in 1967, with the condition that he resign the office of Vice President. Nixon later replaced Agnew by appointing House Minority Leader Gerald Ford to the office of Vice President.
Agnew was the second Vice President in United States history to resign, the other being John C. Calhoun, and the only one to do so because of criminal charges. Nearly ten years after leaving office, Agnew paid the state of Maryland nearly $270,000 as a result of a civil suit that stemmed from the bribery allegations. Critics have cited him as being one of the worst Vice Presidents in American history. But his pugnacious attacks on the Nixon administration's opponents—notably the news media and anti-war demonstrators—won him many admirers in the conservative wing of the Republican Party. He is the only Greek-American Vice President, making him the highest Greek-American politician to have served in the United States.
Spiro Agnew was born in Baltimore, Maryland. His parents were Theodore Spiros Agnew, a Greek immigrant who shortened his name from Anagnostopoulos (Αναγνωστόπουλος) (originally from Gargalianoi, Messenia) when he moved to the United States, and Margaret Marian (Akers) Pollard Agnew, a native of Virginia. Spiro had a half brother, Roy Pollard, from his mother's first marriage (she was widowed at the time she met Spiro's father). Agnew was raised in his father's Greek Orthodox Church. His Greek family has direct lineage from the island of Chios.
Agnew was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1941 and was commissioned an officer on May 25, 1942, upon graduation from Army Officer Candidate School. He served with the 10th Armored Division in Europe during World War II. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his service in France and Germany.
Before leaving for Europe, Agnew worked at the Maryland Casualty Company where he met Elinor Judefind, known as Judy. Agnew married her on May 27, 1942. They had four children: Pamela, James Rand, Susan and Kimberly.
Upon his return from the war, Agnew transferred to the evening program at the University of Baltimore School of Law. He studied law at night, while working as a grocer and as an insurance salesman. In 1947, Agnew received his LL.B. (later amended to Juris Doctor) and moved to the suburbs to begin practicing law. He passed the Maryland bar exam in June 1949.
Early political career
Spiro Agnew began his political career as the first president of the Loch Raven Community Council and the President of the Dumbarton Junior High School PTA. A Democrat from early youth, he switched parties and became a Republican. During the 1950s, he aided U.S. Congressman James Devereux in four successive winning election bids. In 1957, he was appointed to the Baltimore County Board of Zoning Appeals by Democratic Baltimore County Executive Michael J. Birmingham. In 1960, he made his first run for office as a candidate for Judge of the Circuit court, finishing last in a five-person contest. The following year, the new Democratic Baltimore County Executive, Christian H. Kahl, dropped him from the Zoning Board, with Agnew loudly protesting, thereby gaining name recognition.
Agnew ran for election as Baltimore County Executive in 1962, seeking office in a predominantly Democratic county that had seen no Republican elected to that position in the 20th century, with only one (Roger B. Hayden) earning victory after he left. Running as a reformer and Republican outsider, he took advantage of a bitter split in the Democratic Party and was elected. Agnew backed and signed an ordinance outlawing discrimination in some public accommodations, among the first laws of this kind in the United States.
Governor of Maryland
Agnew ran for the position of Governor of Maryland in 1966. In this overwhelmingly Democratic state, he was elected after the Democratic nominee, George P. Mahoney, a Baltimore paving contractor and perennial candidate running on an anti-integration platform, narrowly won the Democratic gubernatorial primary out of a crowded slate of eight candidates, trumping early favorite Carlton R. Sickles. Coming on the heels of the recently passed federal Fair Housing Act of 1965, Mahoney's campaign embraced the slogan "your home is your castle, protect it." Many Democrats opposed to segregation then crossed party lines to give Agnew the governorship by 82,000 votes.
As governor, Agnew worked with the Democratic legislature to pass tax and judicial reforms, as well as tough anti-pollution laws. Projecting an image of racial moderation, Agnew signed the state's first open-housing laws and succeeded in effecting the repeal of an anti-miscegenation law. However, during the riots that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., in the spring of 1968, Agnew angered many African American leaders when he stated in reference to their constituents, "I call on you to publicly repudiate all black racists. This, so far, you have been unwilling to do."
Vice Presidency (1969–1973)
Agnew's moderate image, immigrant background, and success in a traditionally Democratic state made him an attractive running mate for the 1968 Republican presidential nominee, former Vice President Richard Nixon. In line with what would later be called Nixon's "Southern Strategy," Agnew was selected as a candidate because he was sufficiently from the South to attract Southern moderate voters, yet was not identified with the Deep South, which might have alienated Northern centrists come election time.
As late as early 1968, Agnew was a strong supporter of Nelson Rockefeller, one of Nixon's opponents, but by June had switched to supporting Nixon. At the 1968 Republican National Convention, Agnew's nomination was supported by many conservatives within the Republican Party, and by Nixon himself. However, a small band of delegates started shouting "Spiro Who?" and tried to nominate George W. Romney. In the end, Nixon's wishes prevailed, with Agnew receiving 1119 out of the 1317 votes cast.
During the ensuing general election campaign against Vice President Hubert Humphrey—which took place against a backdrop of urban riots and anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, culminating in the violent confrontations at the Democratic convention in Chicago—Agnew repeatedly hammered the Democrats on the issue of "law and order." Agnew was considered something of a political joke at first—one Democratic television commercial featured the sounds of a man's hearty laughter as the camera panned to a TV with the words "Agnew for Vice President?" on the screen.
Agnew went from his first election as County Executive to Vice President in six years—one of the fastest rises in US political history, comparable with that of Nixon, who became Vice President after four years in the House of Representatives and two years in the Senate. Agnew's vice presidency was also the highest-ranking US political office ever reached by either a Greek American citizen or a Marylander.
Agnew soon found his role as the voice of the so-called "silent majority," and by late 1969 he was ranking high on national "Most Admired Men" polls. He also inspired a fashion craze when one entrepreneur introduced Spiro Agnew watches (a takeoff on the popular Mickey Mouse watch); conservatives wore them to show their support for Agnew, while many liberals wore them to signify their contempt.
Agnew was known for his scathing criticisms of political opponents, especially journalists and anti-war activists. Emulating the "blistering blue barnacles" verbal style of Tintin's Captain Haddock with striking similarity, Agnew attacked his adversaries with relish, hurling unusual, often alliterative epithets, some of which were coined by White House speechwriters William Safire and Pat Buchanan, including "pusillanimous pussyfooters," "nattering nabobs of negativism" (written by Safire) and "hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history." He once described a group of opponents as "an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals."
Agnew was often characterized as Nixon's "hatchet man" when defending the administration on the Vietnam War. Agnew was chosen to make several powerful speeches in which he spoke out against anti-war protesters and media portrayal of the Vietnam War, labeling them "Un-American". However, he did speak out publicly against the actions of the Ohio Army National Guard that led to the Kent State shootings in 1970, even describing their action as "murder." Agnew toned down his rhetoric and dropped most of the alliterations after the 1972 election, with a view to running for president himself in 1976.
Despite Agnew's continued loyalty to the administration, his relationship with Nixon deteriorated, almost from the start of their political affiliation. Although Nixon initially liked and respected Agnew, as time progressed he felt his vice president lacked the intelligence and vision, particularly in foreign affairs, to sit in the Oval Office, and he began freezing Agnew out of the White House decision-making process. By some accounts, the notoriously thin-skinned President was also resentful that the self-confident Agnew was so popular with many Americans. By 1970, Agnew was limited to seeing the president only during cabinet meetings or in the occasional and brief one-on-one, with Agnew given no opportunity to discuss much of substance.
Oval Office tapes reveal that in 1971, Nixon and his chief of staff, Bob Haldeman, discussed their desire to have Agnew resign from office before the following year's campaign season. One plan to achieve this was to try to persuade conservative investors to purchase one of the television networks, and then invite Agnew to run it. Another was to see if Bob Hope would be willing to take Agnew on as his partner in his cable television investments. These and other plans never went beyond the talking stages.
Nixon would have liked to replace Agnew on the Republican ticket in 1972 with John Connally, his chosen successor for 1976, but he realized that Agnew's large conservative base of supporters would be in an uproar, so he reluctantly kept him as his running mate. When John Ehrlichman, the President's counsel and assistant, asked Nixon why he kept Agnew on the ticket in the 1972 election, Nixon replied that "No assassin in his right mind would kill me" because they would get Agnew (as President). The eventual Democratic vice-presidential candidate, Sargent Shriver, was also a Marylander.
Agnew came to enjoy the privileges that being vice president brought to him, particularly access to the rich and famous. He became close friends with Frank Sinatra, Billy Graham, and Bob Hope, and consorted with leaders around the globe. He took in stride his newfound fame, as his utterances often made newspaper front pages and were major stories on the evening network news broadcasts. Invitations for Agnew to give speeches across the country flooded into his office, and he became a top fundraiser for the Republican party.
In April 1973, when revelations about Watergate began to surface, Agnew was the choice of 35 percent of Republican voters to be the next Republican nominee for President, while then-California Governor Ronald Reagan was second on the Gallup poll.
On October 10, 1973, Spiro Agnew became the second Vice President to resign the office. Unlike John C. Calhoun, who resigned to take a seat in the Senate, Agnew resigned and then pleaded no contest to criminal charges of tax evasion, part of a negotiated resolution to a scheme wherein he was accused of accepting more than $100,000 in bribes during his tenure as governor of Maryland. Agnew was fined $10,000 and put on three years' probation. The $10,000 fine covered only the taxes and interest due on what was "unreported income" from 1967. The plea bargain was later mocked by former Maryland attorney general Stephen H. Sachs as "the greatest deal since the Lord spared Isaac on the mountaintop." Students of Professor John F. Banzhaf III from the George Washington University Law School, collectively known as Banzhaf's Bandits, found four residents of the state of Maryland willing to put their names on a case and sought to have Agnew repay the state $268,482, the amount it was said he had taken in bribes. After two appeals by Agnew, he finally resigned himself to the matter and a check for $268,482 was turned over to Maryland State Treasurer William S. James in early 1983.
As a result of his no-contest plea, the state of Maryland later disbarred Agnew, calling him "morally obtuse". As in most jurisdictions, Maryland lawyers are automatically disbarred after being convicted of a felony, and a no-contest plea exposes the defendant to the same penalties as one would face with a guilty plea.
Agnew's resignation triggered the first use of the 25th Amendment, specifically Section 2, as the vacancy prompted the appointment and confirmation of Gerald Ford, the House Minority Leader, as his successor. This remains one of only two instances in which the amendment has been employed to fill a vice-presidential vacancy. The second time was when Ford, after becoming President upon Nixon's resignation, chose Nelson Rockefeller (originally Agnew's mentor in the moderate wing of the Republican Party) to succeed him as Vice President. Had Agnew remained as Vice President when Nixon resigned just 10 months later, Agnew himself would have become the 38th President, as well as a strong candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 1976, both of which instead went to Ford.
Later life and death
After leaving politics, Agnew became an international trade executive with homes in Rancho Mirage, California; Arnold, Maryland; Bowie, Maryland; and near Ocean City, Maryland. In 1976, he briefly reentered the public spotlight and engendered controversy with what Gerald Ford publicly criticized as "unsavory remarks about Jews" and anti-Zionist statements that called for the United States to withdraw its support for the state of Israel, citing Israel's allegedly bad treatment of Christians.
In 1980, Agnew published a memoir in which he implied that Nixon and his Chief of Staff, Alexander Haig, had planned to assassinate him if he refused to resign the Vice Presidency, and that Haig told him to "go quietly…or else", the memoir's title. Agnew also wrote a novel, The Canfield Decision, about a Vice President who was "destroyed by his own ambition."
Agnew always maintained that the tax evasion and bribery charges were an attempt by Nixon to divert attention from the growing Watergate scandal. After their resignations, Agnew and Nixon never spoke to each other again. As a gesture of reconciliation, Nixon's daughters invited Agnew to attend Nixon's funeral in 1994, and Agnew accepted. In 1996, when Agnew died, Nixon's daughters returned the favor by attending Agnew's funeral.
Agnew died on September 17, 1996, at age 77 at Atlantic General Hospital, in Berlin, Maryland, in Worcester County (near his Ocean City home), only a few hours after being hospitalized and diagnosed with an advanced, yet to that point undetected, form of leukemia. Agnew is buried at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens, a cemetery in Timonium, Maryland, in Baltimore County in the Garden of the Last Supper section of the cemetery.
Agnew's official portrait was removed damnatione memoriae from the Maryland State House Governor's Reception Room from 1979 until 1995. Governor Parris Glendening stated that in re-including Agnew's portrait, it was not up to anyone to alter history, whether for good or bad; he cited the 1949 novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Under the provisions of an 1886 Senate resolution, all former vice presidents are entitled to a portrait bust in the United States Capitol. Plans were set in motion for a bust of Agnew while he was still in office, but were shelved following his resignation. The idea was revived by the Senate Rules Committee in 1992 and a bust was commissioned from North Carolina artist William Behrends, for whom Agnew sat for four sessions. The bust was unveiled May 24, 1995, in the presence of Agnew, his family, friends, and onetime political supporters. Agnew made a short speech and was visibly moved by the occasion.
- Spiro Agnew (R)—elected unopposed
- Spiro Agnew (R)—455,318 (49.50%)
- George P. Mahoney (D)—373,543 (40.61%)
- Hyman A. Pressman (I)—90,899 (9.88%)
- Spiro Agnew—1,119 (83.95%)
- George Romney—186 (13.95%)
- Abstaining—16 (1.20%)
- John Lindsay—10 (0.75%)
- Edward Brooke—1 (0.08%)
- James A. Rhodes—1 (0.08%)
- Richard Nixon/Spiro Agnew (R)—31,783,783 (43.4%) and 301 electoral votes (32 states carried)
- Hubert Humphrey/Edmund Muskie (D)—31,271,839 (42.7%) and 191 electoral votes (13 states and D.C. carried)
- George Wallace/Curtis LeMay (American Independent)—9,901,118 (13.5%) and 46 electoral votes (5 states carried)
- Spiro Agnew (inc.)—1,345 (99.78%)
- Abstaining—2 (0.15%)
- David Brinkley—1 (0.07%)
- Richard Nixon/Spiro Agnew (R) (inc.)—47,168,710 (60.7%) and 520 electoral votes (49 states carried)
- George McGovern/Sargent Shriver (D)—29,173,222 (37.5%) and 17 electoral votes (1 state and D.C. carried)
- John Hospers/Theodora Nathalia Nathan (Libertarian)—3,171 (0.00%) and 1 electoral vote (Republican faithless elector)
- John G. Schmitz/Thomas J. Anderson (AI)—1,100,868 (1.4%) and 0 electoral votes
- Linda Jenness/Andrew Pulley (Socialist Workers)—83,380 (0.1%)
- Benjamin Spock/Julius Hobson (People's)—78,759 (0.1%)
- "The religion of Spiro T. Agnew, U.S. Vice-President". Adherents.com. Retrieved October 10, 2011.
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- "America's Worst Vice Presidents Spiro Agnew". time.com. August 21, 2008. Retrieved February 8, 2013.
- "Worst Modern VP Picks DON'T BE SO QUICK TO JUDGE PALIN". newser.com. November 26, 2009. Retrieved February 8, 2013.
- "The 10 Worst Vice Presidents of the United States". yahoo.com. April 9, 2008. Retrieved February 8, 2013.
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- "Agnew's Mother Born in Bristol". Daily News. October 12, 1973. Retrieved January 1, 2012.
- Arnold, Martin (October 11, 1973). "A Vice President Who Extolled the Old Virtues; Spiro Theodore Agnew Term for Doves Eccentric Appointment' University Dropout Stocked With Wines". The New York Times.
- "Spiro T. Agnew, Ex-Vice President, Dies at 77". The New York Times. September 18, 1996.
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- "Nation: Running Mate's Mate". August 23, 1968. August 23, 1968. Retrieved July 16, 2011.
- "Spiro T. Agnew (1918–1996)". State of Maryland. Retrieved July 16, 2011.
- Martin, Douglas. "Judy Agnew, Wife of Vice President, Dies at 91," The New York Times, Thursday, June 28, 2012.
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- Johnson-Cartee, Karen S.; Copeland, Gary (1991). Negative Political Advertising: Coming of Age. Psychology Press. p. 91. ISBN 9780805808346.
- Hollihan, Thomas A. (2008). Uncivil Wars: Political Campaigns in a Media Age (2nd ed.). Macmillan. p. 156. ISBN 9780312478834.
- Sussman, Gerald (1997). Communication, Technology, and Politics in the Information Age. SAGE Publishing. p. 149. ISBN 9780803951402.
- Lance Morrow (September 30, 1996). "Morrow, L. "Naysayer to the nattering nabobs."". Time. Retrieved October 10, 2011.
- Clines, Francis X. (September 19, 1996). "Spiro T. Agnew, Point Man for Nixon Who Resigned Vice Presidency, Dies at 77". The New York Times. Retrieved November 28, 2007.
- Ehrlichmann, J.: Witness to Power: The Nixon Years, Simon & Schuster, 1982; ISBN 978-0-671-24296-1
- "Online NewsHour: Remembering Spiro Agnew". PBS. September 18, 1996. Retrieved October 10, 2011.
- Agnew, Spiro T., Go Quietly....or else, p. 15.
- Agnew, Spiro T.,Go Quietly...or else, pp. 16–17.
- 1973 Year in Review: Vice Presidency
- Patrick Mondout Veep Spiro Agnew Resigns Super70s.com
- ABA Journal May 2009, http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/may_2_1974/
- "Agnew Asserts He Is Not a Bigot; Defends Right to Criticize Israel". The New York Times. July 31, 1976. Retrieved November 28, 2007.
- "FORD SAYS AGNEW IS WRONG ON JEWS; Criticizes Comments Made in Novel and Interviews". The New York Times. June 26, 1976. Retrieved November 28, 2007.
- Safire, William (May 24, 1976). "Spiro Agnew and the Jews; ESSAY". The New York Times. Retrieved November 28, 2007.
- "The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappe (Part II)". Archived from the original on October 10, 2007. Retrieved November 28, 2007.
- Agnew, Spiro T:: "Go Quietly...or Else". Morrow, 1980. ISBN 0-688-03668-6.
- Agnew, Spiro T:: "The Canfield Decision". Putnam Pub Group, 1976. ISBN 978-9997554871.
- Hatfield, Mark O.; Wolff, Wendy (1999). Vice Presidents of the United States, 1789-1993. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 488. OCLC 56999585. Retrieved August 10, 2014.
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- Press Conference statement, April 13, 1995, http://www.msa.md.gov/msa/stagser/s1259/121/7044/html/7044.html
- United States Senate Art & History Home Page/Spiro T. Agnew, http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/art/artifact/Sculpture_22_00043.htm
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Spiro Agnew.|
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Spiro Agnew|
- Spiro Agnew at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Spiro Agnew biography on U.S. Senate website
- FBI files on Spiro Agnew
- The 30th Anniversary of Agnew's Resignation As Vice President (University of Maryland)
- Papers of Spiro T. Agnew at the University of Maryland Libraries
- The Archives of Maryland collection of speeches, messages and other public papers during Agnew's governorship, 1967–69
|Vice President of the United States
January 20, 1969 – October 10, 1973
J. Millard Tawes
|Governor of Maryland
January 27, 1967 – January 9, 1969
Christian H. Kahl
|Baltimore County Executive
|Party political offices|
William E. Miller
|Republican vice presidential nominee
Frank Small, Jr.
|Maryland Republican gubernatorial nominee
C. Stanley Blair