William Barr Biography

(United States Attorney General)

Birthday: May 23, 1950 (Gemini)

Born In: New York City, United States

William Barr is an American attorney who served as the United States attorney general twice in the administrations of Presidents George H. W. Bush (from 1991 to 1993) and Donald Trump (in 2019-20). He had started his career working for the Central Intelligence Agency and then worked at the law firm Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge, during which period he also spent a year in the White House of the Ronald Reagan administration. He joined the Department of Justice as an Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel and was promoted to Deputy Attorney General and eventually to the 77th Attorney General. He justified US invasion of Panama to arrest Manuel Noriega as the head of OLC and authorized the successful freeing of hostages at the Talladega federal prison as deputy attorney general. As attorney general, he argued for an increase in incarceration rate and advised President Bush to pardon six officials involved in the Iran–Contra affair. During his second tenure, he was often criticized for his handling of various issues like the Mueller report and intervention in cases of Trump associates, but denied Trump’s claim of irregularities in the 2020 presidential elections.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: William Pelham Barr

Age: 72 Years, 72 Year Old Males


Spouse/Ex-: Christine Barr (m. 1973)

father: Donald Barr

mother: Mary Margaret

Born Country: United States

Lawyers American Men

U.S. State: New Yorkers

More Facts

education: Columbia University, George Washington University, Horace Mann School

Childhood & Early Life

William Pelham Barr was born on May 23, 1950 in New York City, United States, to Mary and Donald Barr. Both his parents wereteachers at Columbia University, but Donald later became headmaster of two Ivy League Preparatory Schools.

The second of four sons, William Barr grew up on New York City's Upper West Side and was raised as a Catholic by his Irish descent mother and Jewish father, who later converted to Christianity.

He attended Corpus Christi School, a Catholic grammar school, and the non-sectarian Horace Mann School, before going to Columbia University, where he was an active member in the Sigma Nu fraternity. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in government in 1971 and did two additional years of graduate study to receive Master of Arts in government and Chinese studies in 1973.

While still attending graduate school and later while pursuing the evening student program at George Washington University Law School, he worked as an intelligence analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1971-77.  He obtained his Juris Doctor degree with highest honors in 1977.

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William Barr was initially hired as a summer intern at CIA in 1971, and later served as an analyst in the Intelligence Directorate division from 1973 to 1975. He then worked as an assistant in the Office of Legislative Counsel and an agency liaison to Congress in 1975-77.

He served as a law clerk to Judge Malcolm Wilkey of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit for a year before working at the law firm of Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge. He worked there between 1978 and 1982 and then again from 1983 to 1989, while serving as Deputy Assistant Director for Legal Policy on the domestic policy staff at the Reagan White House in-between.

In 1989, President George H. W. Bush appointed him to the U.S. Department of Justice as Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel, which provided legal advisory for the President and executive agencies. In that position, he wrote an advisory opinion justifying the U.S. invasion of Panama and arrest of Manuel Noriega, as well as the legal justifications for the practice of rendition.

He was appointed Deputy Attorney General in May 1990 and earned praise for his professional day-to-day management of the department. After then-Attorney General Richard Thornburgh resigned to campaign for the Senate, he was named Acting Attorney General in August 1991.

Days after taking the position, he directed FBI's Hostage Rescue Team to assault the Talladega federal prison to rescue hostages from Cuban inmates awaiting deportation. Impressed with his management of the crisis, President Bush nominated him for the attorney general post, which was approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee and he was sworn in on November 26, 1991.

In 1992, he wrote the report The Case for More Incarceration, in which he argued for increasing the United States incarceration rate, constructing more prisons and abolishing parole release. However, his justification of the changes pointing to crime and incarceration rates in the past four decades was criticized by criminologists and a 1999 criminology study for being deceptively presented.

Nevertheless, his report influenced the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, and he continued to concentrate on the administration’s law enforcement directives throughout his career. He led the department’s response to the Savings & Loan crisis, oversaw the investigation of the Pan Am 103 bombing and coordinated counter-terrorism activities during the First Gulf War.

After leaving the DOJ in 1993, he was appointed co-chair of a commission to implement tougher criminal justice policies and abolish parole in the state by Virginia Governor George Allen. The next year, he became Executive Vice President and General Counsel of the telecommunications company GTE Corporation, and retained the post after the company’s merger with Bell Atlantic to become Verizon Communications in 2000.

He left the telecommunications company after 14 years in 2008, following which he briefly served “of counsel” to the firm Kirkland & Ellis in 2009 and later rejoined the firm in 2017. He served on the boards of directors of the media conglomerate Time Warner (2009–18), the energy company Dominion Resources (2009–18), and the Och-Ziff Capital Management Group (2016–18).

Barr frequently criticized investigations into the Trump presidency and had even sent an unsolicited 20-page memo to senior Justice Department officials arguing against Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation. He was seen as an unwavering champion of executive power and Trump nominated him to succeed Jeff Sessions as attorney general in December 2018.

Despite concerns from Democrats, he was confirmed as attorney general by the Senate in a 54–45 near party-line vote on February 14, 2019 and was sworn in hours later. He often intervened in the convictions and sentences of former Trump associates, misrepresented aspects of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, refused to give Congress an unredacted version of the report and defied congressional subpoenas.

While seen as a champion and advocate for Trump during his second tenure, Barr refuted baseless allegations of fraud after Trump refused to concede following Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 election. He resigned from his post in December 2020 and further criticized Trump in his book, One Damn Thing After Another: Memoirs of an Attorney General (2022), even warning against a second Trump presidency.

Personal Life & Legacy

Since 1973, William Barr has been married to Christine Moynihan Barr, with whom he has three daughters: Mary Barr Daly, Patricia Barr Straughn and Margaret (Meg) Barr. Mary was a senior Justice Department official, Patricia was counsel for the House Agriculture Committee, and Meg is a former Washington prosecutor and cancer survivor.


William Barr is an avid bagpiper who has been playing the instrument since the age of eight and performed competitively in Scotland with the major American pipe band Denny & Dunipace. He has occasionally played the instrument, outfitted in kilts and other bagpipe apparel, at Justice Department functions and sometimes played tapes of pipe music in his office.

See the events in life of William Barr in Chronological Order

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