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Spiro Theodore Agnew
forced to resign for corruption

1918 - 1996


Spiro Theodore Agnew became the only vice president of the United States to resign his office while under criminal investigation. In 1968 and 1972, Agnew had won election as vice president under President Richard M. Nixon. Agnew resigned in 1973 after a federal grand jury began hearing charges that he had participated in widespread graft as an officeholder in Maryland.

Agnew had been elected governor of Maryland in 1966. He was the first man of Greek descent to serve as governor of an American state, or as vice president. He became the second vice president to resign. In 1832, Vice President John C. Calhoun resigned after being chosen to fill a U.S. Senate seat from South Carolina.

Agnew was born on Nov. 9, 1918, in Towson, Maryland. His father, Theodore Spiro Agnew, had come to the United States in 1897. Theodore Agnew became a leader of the city's Greek community.

Agnew studied chemistry for three years at Johns Hopkins University, and then transferred to the law school of the University of Baltimore. He served in the Army in Europe during World War II. Agnew switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party after the war. Agnew married Elinor Isabel Judefind in 1942. The couple had three daughters and a son. Agnew received a law degree in 1947, and began practicing law in Baltimore County.

Agnew entered politics in 1957, when he was appointed to the Baltimore County Board of Appeals. In 1962, he was elected county executive, the chief official of Baltimore County. In 1967, Agnew became the fifth Republican governor in Maryland history.

Agnew was little known outside Maryland in 1968 when the Republican National Convention, at Nixon's request, nominated him for vice president. In the election, Nixon and Agnew defeated the Democratic candidates, Hubert H. Humphrey and Edmund S. Muskie. Agnew soon became well known and highly controversial. He often accused some newspapers and TV networks of presenting news in a way that was prejudiced against the Administration. He also criticized student radicals and other dissenters. In 1972, Nixon and Agnew won a landslide victory over their Democratic opponents, George S. McGovern and Sargent Shriver.

In 1973, federal officials began to investigate charges that Agnew had accepted bribes from contractors in return for helping them get state government work in Maryland. The investigation covered the period Agnew had served as Baltimore County Executive, governor, and vice president.

Agnew repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. But on October 10, he resigned as vice president under an agreement with the Department of Justice. Agnew pleaded nolo contendere (no contest) to a single charge -- that he had cheated the government of $13,551 on his federal income tax payment for 1967. The judge declared that the plea was "the full equivalent of a plea of guilty." Agnew was fined $10,000 and sentenced to three years of unsupervised probation. House Minority Leader Gerald R. Ford succeeded Agnew as vice president. Ford was sworn into the office on Dec. 6, 1973.

In 1974, the Maryland Court of Appeals disbarred Agnew because of his nolo contendere plea. The court's action prohibited Agnew from practicing law in the state. In 1981, another Maryland court ordered Agnew to pay the state the amount of the bribes it declared he had accepted, plus interest. In 1983, Agnew paid Maryland $268,482.


Contributor: Earl Mazo, Former National Political Correspondent, Reader's Digest.

SOURCE: IBM 1999 WORLD BOOK


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