Early Legal Career (1950s–1970s)
Extent: 8 linear feet
Thornburgh began his law career as staff counsel at the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA). In 1959, he joined Kirkpatrick, Pomeroy, Lockhart, and Johnson (K&L) as the nineteenth lawyer of the firm and has remained associated with the firm intermittently ongoing, when not holding a public service position.
Thornburgh was elected to the Junior Bar Association of the Pennsylvania Bar Association in 1960 and became chairman in 1963. Throughout his association with this organization, Thornburgh worked to modernize Pennsylvania's judicial system. The conference for this purpose, held in January of 1964, "marked the beginning of a lifelong commitment to judicial reform and introduced [Thornburgh] to many leaders who shared this concern” (Evidence, p. 17).
In 1962, Thornburgh was elected secretary of the Junior Bar Section of the Allegheny County Bar Association and served on the Public Service Committee and chaired the Public Defender Committee from 1966–69.
Thornburgh’s paper on the 1963 case of Gideon v. Wainwright, “Indigents in the Pennsylvania Criminal Courts: The Impact of Gideon v. Wainwright,” “led naturally to a concern for meeting the legal needs of poor people in civil matters” (Evidence, p. 18). Thornburgh was a member of the Neighborhood Legal Services Association of Pittsburgh and served as one of its original board members, resigning in 1969 when appointed U.S. attorney.
“Early Legal Career” files are organized in six sections: “Legal and Personal Calendars,” “Law Work,” “Pennsylvania Junior Bar Association,” “Allegheny Bar Association,” “Neighborhood Legal Services,” and “Legal Reports on Courts.” The files consist generally of correspondence, memoranda, case materials, event information, articles, news releases, and reports. Researchers should note that the time frame here in “Early Law Career” coincides with or overlaps the following sections on “Civic Activity” and “Politics,” which have some related correspondence and files. Of particular interest, too, are the scrapbooks kept by Ginny Thornburgh that document Thornburgh’s rising career during these early years with the resultant newspaper clippings and articles.