Spiro Agnew was the 39th vice president of the United States. He was the first person of Greek descent to serve as the governor of an American state, and as vice president. He also was the second vice president to resign, and the first to leave under the cloud of a federal investigation.
Birth and youth
Spiro Agnew was born on November 9, 1918, in Baltimore, Maryland, to Theodore Spiros Anagnostopoulos, a Greek immigrant, and Margaret Akers of Virginia.
Agnew grew up in Baltimore and attended public schools. He enrolled in Johns Hopkins University in 1937 to study chemistry.
Agnew's education was interrupted when he was drafted serve in the U.S. Army during World War II. He received the Bronze Star for his valor in Europe.
Upon his return from the war, Agnew transferred to the evening program at the University of Baltimore Law School, then worked as a grocer and insurance salesman during the day. Agnew received a law degree in 1947, then moved to the suburbs to begin a practice. He was admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1949.
While Agnew was working for the insurance company, he met and married Elinor Isabel Judefind in 1942. The couple had three daughters and a son.
Success as a Republican
Although he was reared in a Democratic family, Agnew became a Republican following World War II. In the 1950s, he aided in four successive winning congressional election bids before entering races himself in 1957, upon his accession to the Baltimore County Board of Zoning Appeals.
Agnew pursued politics as a Republican reformer and was elected in 1962 as the chief executive of Baltimore County. Capitalizing on discord within the Democratic party, Agnew managed to garner Democratic votes to become the first Republican governor of Maryland in the 20th century, in 1967.
As governor, Agnew introduced a graduated income tax, an effective anti-pollution law, and won passage of an open-housing law. He also expanded the state's antipoverty programs.
The vice presidency
Although Agnew was little known outside of Maryland, he rocketed to political stardom in 1968, when presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon requested to nominate him for vice president at the Republican National Convention. Agnew agreed, then campaigned on a law-and-order platform.
As vice president, Agnew was verbally aggressive towards opponents of the Vietnam War and the Nixon administration. He accused them of disloyalty, and often criticized intellectuals and college students for abandoning traditional values. He called them "nattering nabobs of negativism."
In addition, Agnew frequently accused the mass media of biased news coverage. He averred that some newspapers and magazines critical of the administration were often unfair and inaccurate, and contended that a small number of biased people, who did not represent the American people, controlled television news. While opposing violent dissent, however, Agnew supported peaceful protest.
Fall from grace
The vice president came under investigation by the U.S. Attorney in Baltimore for allegedly receiving payoffs from engineers seeking contracts, when he was Baltimore county executive and governor of Maryland. Agnew asserted his innocence, but he resigned on October 10, 1973. He then pleaded nolo contendere (no contest) to a single charge of federal income tax evasion for failing to report $29,500 of income received in 1967. He was sentenced to three years' probation and fined $10,000.
In 1974, Spiro Agnew was disbarred in Maryland. Picking up the pieces, however, he began a successful business career as an international broker.
Agnew died on September 17, 1996, in Berlin, Maryland.
---- Selected Quotes ----
Quotes by Spiro Agnew.
Regarding The Media
Perhaps the place to start looking for a credibility gap is not in the offices of the Government in Washington but in the studios of the networks in New York!
In the United States today, we have more than our share of the nattering nabobs of negativism.
1970 speech in San Diego