Birthday: November 21, 1939
Died At Age: 47
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Also Known As: Robert Budd Dwyer
Born in: Saint Charles, Missouri
Famous as: Politician
Spouse/Ex-: Joanne Grappy (m. 1963; his death 1987)
father: Robert Malcolm Dwyer
mother: Alice Mary Budd Dwyer
children: Dyan Dwyer, Robert Dwyer
Died on: January 22, 1987
place of death: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
U.S. State: Missouri
Budd Dwyer was an American politician who served as the 30th Head of Treasury of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Prior to that he was also a part of Pennsylvania’s senate for the Republican Party and represented the 50th district of the state. Born and brought up in Missouri to a middle class family, Budd wanted to be an accountant during his teenage years while he was in school but studying political science in college took him to politics. He became a Republican in the early 60s and was elected for the Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives for the 6th district. In 1980, he ran for the state office elections and in 1981, he sat on the chair of State Treasurer. His tenure for first few years went smoothly but in 1986, he was convicted of taking bribe from an accounting firm to handle a major government scheme. On January 23rd 1987, his sentence was scheduled to be heard but it did not come to pass as he shocked the entire world with what he did a day prior. On 22nd, he called a press conference and shot himself dead in front of the media.
Childhood & Early Life
Robert Budd Dwyer was born on November 21, 1939 in Saint Charles, Missouri to middle class parents. He was good in academics and accountancy being one of his favourite subjects he wanted to pursue a career in accounting once he grew up. But somehow, he later took political science as his major and decided to enter politics. He was fed up of the corrupt system and wholeheartedly believed that a common man could bring a significant change in the corrupt political atmosphere of the country.
After graduating in high school from a local school in his hometown, Budd came down to Pennsylvania to pursue his college education from Allegheny College in Meadville. Interested in politics, he became a key member of Theta Chi Fraternity. The famous international fraternity had several chapters and Budd joined Beta Chi chapter. Apart from that, he was also interested in playing football and had played it all through his high school years.
Once he graduated from the university, he started his career as a teacher and taught social studies at the Cambridge Springs High School and he also became a football coach at the school, carrying on his love for football. But his keen interest in politics and strong political ideas, matching those of Republic Party had him joining politics in the early 60s.
In 1963, he married Joanne Grapy and the couple went on having two children.
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His first major breakthrough as a politician arrived in 1964 when he was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives contesting in the 6th district. His tenure was appreciated by the locales and his first term came to a halt in 1966. But his popularity had him getting selected for two more terms in 1966 and 1968. But his aspirations were not limited to that and he further contested for a seat in the Pennsylvania State Senate in 1970.
He won the senate elections for the 50th district and shortly after his selection he resigned from his previous seat in the State House. He was still very young by that time and becoming a Senator was no small feat. His success as a politician was heavily attributed to his clean image and cheerful nature. He sworn in as the senator in January 1971 for a two years term and followed his successes again in the 1974 and 1976 elections.
His success streak continued further when he decided to run for the State Office and ended up winning the 1980 elections, becoming the State Treasurer for Pennsylvania. He replaced Robert E. Casey for the seat who was holding the position since 1976. Budd contested for the seat again in 1984 after a first peaceful term and most of the votes sided in his favour and hence, he kept the seat for a second term. However, the second term as the Head of the Treasury became difficult as the time passed and it approached a tragic end which shook the entire nation.
Charges & Suicide
In the early 80s, the state of Pennsylvania was facing troubles as the public employees of the state paid millions of dollars as taxes. The refund of those tax payments became a crucial affair and for that, the bids were invited for accounting firms to carry out the operations. The bid was won by Computer Technology Associates, an accounting firm from California.
The trouble started brewing when the governor of Pennsylvania received an anonymous memo which stated that bribery was involved in the selection of CTA during the bidding for the project, which amounted to $4.6 million. Federal prosecutors started an investigation. Budd was charged with taking the bribes worth $3, 00,000 for culminating the bid in favour of CTA using his position as the head of the treasury.
The US Attorney also dragged CTA’s owner John Torquato, his attorney William Smith and Smith’s wife into the mud. John and the Williams provided irrefutable evidences to support prosecutor’s claims that Budd had in-fact accepted the bribe from them. They were lured into the admission of guilt after they were offered lighter sentences. Four independent and impartial witnesses further claimed that Budd was guilty of accepting the bribes.
Budd never pleaded guilty and kept saying that the contract was awarded to CTA after it was decided by a task force. But his claims contradicted the actual fact which stated that Budd was the only one with the power of decision-making. Budd’s attorney further approached the prosecutor and asked if the charges could be dropped against Budd if he resigned from the position right away. The prosecutor denied. Instead, the prosecutor asked Budd to plead guilty in exchange for five years’ imprisonment, resignation and full co-operation with government regarding the investigation of the case. Budd denied the offer.
In December 1986, Budd was declared guilty of 11 charges including conspiracy, mail fraud, accepting bribes and intestate transportation to aid racketeering. All these charges amounted to a $3, 00,000 fines and a prison sentence of 55 years. US district court set the date of hearing of the sentence as January 23, 1987.
Pennsylvania state law further stated that Budd could not be removed from his position until his hearing in January. In December, Budd wrote a personal letter to President Ronald Reagan asking for forgiveness and seeked the help of Senator Arlen Specter to help him out in the time of trouble. Nothing happened.
On January 22, a day before his sentence being heard, Budd decided to organize a press conference. In the conference, he read a long letter he composed and further said that he was innocent. He also blamed the state governor, prosecutor and some FBI agents for ruining his life. His speech lasted for about 30 minutes and as some journalists started to leave, he urged them to stay.
After he stopped speaking, he brought out an envelope and opened it to reveal a Magnum revolver. The entire hall embarked into chaos, thinking Budd was about to go on a shooting spree. But a few seconds later, it became obvious that he was not going to shoot anybody else. Some people from the conference urged him to give the pistol up and some others moved ahead to snatch it from him.
At around 11:00 AM, Budd put the gun in his mouth and shot the revolver. It killed him immediately as the footage ran on several news channels.
In 2010, a documentary film based on Budd Dwyer’s life was released with the title ‘Honest Man: The Life of R. Budd Dwyer’. The film ran in several film festivals and was appreciated for the honest portrayal of the entire issue.
Overtime, general public began sympathizing with Budd and several social media threads were created mourning his death.