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Spiro Agnew

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Spiro Agnew

Spiro Agnew
39th Vice President of the United States
In office
January 20, 1969 – October 10, 1973
President Richard Nixon
Preceded by Hubert Humphrey
Succeeded by Gerald Ford
55th Governor of Maryland
In office
January 25, 1967 – January 7, 1969
Preceded by J. Millard Tawes
Succeeded by Marvin Mandel
Baltimore County Executive
In office
Preceded by Christian H. Kahl
Succeeded by Dale Anderson
Personal details
Born Spiro Theodore Agnew
(1918-11-09)November 9, 1918
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
Died September 17, 1996(1996-09-17) (aged 77)
Berlin, Maryland, U.S.
Resting place Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens
Timonium, Maryland
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Judy Agnew
Children Pamela Agnew
James Randy Agnew
Susan Agnew
Kimberly Agnew
Residence Baltimore, Maryland
Alma mater Johns Hopkins University
University of Baltimore School of Law
Religion Episcopalian[1][2] (raised Greek Orthodox)
Signature Cursive signature in ink
Military service
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 Greek American to hold the position, serving between 1967 and 1969.

At the 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.[3][4][5] He is the only Greek-American Vice President, making him the highest Greek-American politician to have served in the United States.


  • Early life 1
  • Early political career 2
  • Governor of Maryland 3
  • Vice Presidency (1969–1973) 4
    • Resignation 4.1
  • Later life and death 5
  • Tributes 6
  • Electoral history 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Early life

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,[6][7] and Margaret Marian (Akers) Pollard Agnew, a native of Virginia.[8] Spiro had a half brother, Roy Pollard, from his mother's first marriage (she was widowed at the time she met Spiro's father).[8] Agnew was raised in his father's Greek Orthodox Church. His Greek family has direct lineage from the island of Chios.[9][10]

Agnew attended Forest Park Senior High School in Baltimore, before enrolling at Johns Hopkins University in 1937. He studied chemistry at Hopkins for three years.

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.[11][12] He served with the 10th Armored Division[13] in Europe during World War II. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his service in France and Germany.[11][13]

Before leaving for Europe, Agnew worked at the Maryland Casualty Company where he met Elinor Judefind, known as Judy.[14] Agnew married her on May 27, 1942.[12] 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.

Agnew was recalled to service with the Army in 1950 during the Korean War.[13]

Early political career

Spiro Agnew began his political career as the first president of the Loch Raven Community Council[15] and the President of the Dumbarton Junior High School PTA.[15] 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 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."[16] 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)

Spiro Agnew is sworn in as vice-president in 1969. Front row, from left to right: Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Everett Dirksen, Spiro Agnew (with hand raised), Hubert Humphrey.

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.[17]

As late as early 1968, Agnew was a strong supporter of 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.[19][20][21]

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.

Vice President Spiro Agnew (wearing gray blazer and sunglasses) and former President Lyndon B. Johnson view the liftoff of Apollo 11 from pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center

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."[22] In a speech denouncing the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, he characterized the war's opponents as "an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals."[23]

Agnew was often characterized as Nixon's "hatchet man" when defending the administration on the Vietnam War.[24] 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 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).[25]

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.

Spiro Agnew congratulates launch control after the launch of Apollo 17 in 1972

In April 1973, when revelations about [26]


On October 10, 1973, Spiro Agnew became the second Vice President to resign the office. Unlike 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".[31] 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 [26]

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.[32][33][34][35]

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.[36] Agnew also wrote a novel, The Canfield Decision,[37] about a Vice President who was "destroyed by his own ambition."[38]

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.[39]

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.[40]


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.[41]

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.[42]

Electoral history

Baltimore County Executive, 1962[43]

  • Spiro Agnew (R)—elected unopposed

Governor of Maryland, 1966[44]

  • Spiro Agnew (R)—455,318 (49.50%)
  • George P. Mahoney (D)—373,543 (40.61%)
  • Hyman A. Pressman (I)—90,899 (9.88%)

1968 Republican National Convention (Vice Presidential tally)[45]

United States presidential election, 1968

1972 Republican National Convention (Vice Presidential tally)[46]

  • Spiro Agnew (inc.)—1,345 (99.78%)
  • Abstaining—2 (0.15%)
  • David Brinkley—1 (0.07%)

United States presidential election, 1972


  1. ^ "The religion of Spiro T. Agnew, U.S. Vice-President". Retrieved October 10, 2011. 
  2. ^ Noonan, Peggy (November 24, 2007). "People Before Prophets". Retrieved October 10, 2011. 
  3. ^ "America's Worst Vice Presidents Spiro Agnew". August 21, 2008. Retrieved February 8, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Worst Modern VP Picks DON'T BE SO QUICK TO JUDGE PALIN". November 26, 2009. Retrieved February 8, 2013. 
  5. ^ "The 10 Worst Vice Presidents of the United States". April 9, 2008. Retrieved February 8, 2013. 
  6. ^ "U.S. Senate – Art & History – Spiro T Agnew, 39th Vice President". 
  7. ^ Spiro T. Agnew – Encyclopædia Britannica (Retrieved October 13, 2007)
  8. ^ a b "Agnew's Mother Born in Bristol". Daily News. October 12, 1973. Retrieved January 1, 2012. 
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ "Spiro T. Agnew, Ex-Vice President, Dies at 77". The New York Times. September 18, 1996. 
  11. ^ a b "Maryland Governor Spiro Theodore Agnew".  
  12. ^ a b "Nation: Running Mate's Mate". August 23, 1968. August 23, 1968. Retrieved July 16, 2011. 
  13. ^ a b c "Spiro T. Agnew (1918–1996)". State of  
  14. ^ , Thursday, June 28, 2012.The New York TimesMartin, Douglas. "Judy Agnew, Wife of Vice President, Dies at 91,"
  15. ^ a b Wills, Gary (1970). Nixon Agonistes: The Crisis of the Self-Made Man. USA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 278.  
  16. ^ "George Mahoney, 87, Maryland Candidate". The New York Times. March 21, 1989. Retrieved May 23, 2010. 
  17. ^ Phillips, David J. On This Day. Lincoln, NE: ¡Universe, 2007. (accessed April 17, 2014).
  18. ^ "Gov. Agnew Hints A Swing To Nixon", The New York Times, June 12, 1968 (Page 29) Retrieved March 16, 2011
  19. ^ Johnson-Cartee, Karen S.; Copeland, Gary (1991). Negative Political Advertising: Coming of Age. Psychology Press. p. 91.  
  20. ^ Hollihan, Thomas A. (2008). Uncivil Wars: Political Campaigns in a Media Age (2nd ed.). Macmillan. p. 156.  
  21. ^ Sussman, Gerald (1997). Communication, Technology, and Politics in the Information Age. SAGE Publishing. p. 149.  
  22. ^ Lance Morrow (September 30, 1996). """Morrow, L. "Naysayer to the nattering nabobs.. Time. Retrieved October 10, 2011. 
  23. ^ "'"Agnew Blasts Moratorium Day as 'Senseless. Chicago Tribune. October 20, 1969. Retrieved October 7, 2014. 
  24. ^ 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. 
  25. ^ Ehrlichmann, J.: Witness to Power: The Nixon Years, Simon & Schuster, 1982; ISBN 978-0-671-24296-1
  26. ^ a b "Online NewsHour: Remembering Spiro Agnew". PBS. September 18, 1996. Retrieved October 10, 2011. 
  27. ^ Agnew, Spiro T., Go Quietly....or else, p. 15.
  28. ^ Agnew, Spiro T.,Go Quietly...or else, pp. 16–17.
  29. ^ 1973 Year in Review: Vice Presidency
  30. ^ Patrick Mondout Veep Spiro Agnew Resigns
  31. ^ ABA Journal May 2009,
  32. ^ "Agnew Asserts He Is Not a Bigot; Defends Right to Criticize Israel". The New York Times. July 31, 1976. Retrieved November 28, 2007. 
  33. ^ "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. 
  34. ^ Safire, William (May 24, 1976). "Spiro Agnew and the Jews; ESSAY". The New York Times. Retrieved November 28, 2007. 
  35. ^ "The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappe (Part II)". Archived from the original on October 10, 2007. Retrieved November 28, 2007. 
  36. ^ Agnew, Spiro T:: "Go Quietly...or Else". Morrow, 1980. ISBN 0-688-03668-6.
  37. ^ Agnew, Spiro T:: "The Canfield Decision". Putnam Pub Group, 1976. ISBN 978-9997554871.
  38. ^ Hatfield, Mark O.; Wolff, Wendy (1999). Vice Presidents of the United States, 1789-1993. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 488.  
  39. ^ "Agnew, Spiro". Retrieved October 10, 2011. 
  40. ^ "Spiro Theodore Agnew".  
  41. ^ Press Conference statement, April 13, 1995,
  42. ^ United States Senate Art & History Home Page/Spiro T. Agnew,
  43. ^ "Baltimore County, MD Executive Race – November 6, 1962". Our Campaigns. Retrieved October 10, 2011. 
  44. ^ "MD Governor Race – November 8, 1966". Our Campaigns. Retrieved October 10, 2011. 
  45. ^ "US Vice President – R Convention Race – August 5, 1968". Our Campaigns. Retrieved October 10, 2011. 
  46. ^ "US Vice President – R Convention Race – August 21, 1972". Our Campaigns. Retrieved October 10, 2011. 

External links

  • 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
  • collection of speeches, messages and other public papers during Agnew's governorship, 1967–69The Archives of Maryland
Political offices
Preceded by
Hubert Humphrey
Vice President of the United States
January 20, 1969 – October 10, 1973
Succeeded by
Gerald Ford
Preceded by
J. Millard Tawes
Governor of Maryland
January 27, 1967 – January 9, 1969
Succeeded by
Marvin Mandel
Preceded by
Christian H. Kahl
Baltimore County Executive
Succeeded by
Dale Anderson
Party political offices
Preceded by
William E. Miller
Republican vice presidential nominee
1968, 1972
Succeeded by
Bob Dole
Preceded by
Frank Small, Jr.
Maryland Republican gubernatorial nominee
Succeeded by
C. Stanley Blair
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