Raymond P. Shafer bigraphy, stories - Recipient of the Purple Heart medal

Raymond P. Shafer : biography

March 5, 1917 - December 12, 2006

Raymond Philip Shafer (March 5, 1917 – December 12, 2006) served as the 39th Governor of Pennsylvania from 1967 to 1971. He had previously served as the 23rd Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania from 1963 to 1967. He was a national leader of the moderate wing of the Republican Party in the late 1960s.

Governor of Pennsylvania

In 1962, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Scranton tapped him as his running mate. Scranton had been Shafer's classmate at Yale and both were considered moderate Republicans. The Scranton/Shafer ticket won the election over the Democratic ticket led by Philadelphia Mayor Richardson Dilworth, and Shafer became the Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania.

Scranton was limited to one term under then-existing state law and Shafer was considered the most likely choice to succeed him as the Republican nominee. In the general election, he faced wealthy Philadelphia businessman Milton Shapp. The 1966 election was marked by tragedies. State Attorney General Walter Alessandroni, Shafer’s running mate, was killed in an aviation accident during the campaign and won the Lt. Gov. nomination posthumously; Ray Broderick was named to replace him on the ticket. Former governor David L. Lawrence collapsed and fell into a coma during a campaign appearance for Shapp, and died later that November. On election day, Shafer was victorious by a margin of nearly a quarter of a million votes.

As Governor, Shafer was best known for championing reforms to the state constitution. In 1963, Lieutenant Governor Shafer had chaired a bipartisan committee to explore constitutional reforms. By the beginning of Shafer's term as Governor, a constitutional convention was meeting to overhaul state government.

Shafer oversaw a massive expansion of Pennsylvania's highway system and dedicated several portions of the Interstate Highway System in the state. He was also the first governor to reside in the modern Governor's Mansion in Harrisburg. Large expenditures for these and other programs caused huge budget deficits. To balance the budget, Shafer sought Pennsylvania's first state income tax, a move that made him unpopular with many voters.

Although the 1968 constitution allowed incumbent governors to run for reelection, Shafer was bound by the previous rules and was limited to one term. He campaigned for Ray Broderick, his lieutenant governor, as his successor. Although Broderick publicly opposed a state income tax, he was unable to escape the shadow of Shafer, who had proposed it. The 1970 election saw a Democratic sweep with Milton Shapp elected Governor and Democrats gaining control of both houses of the General Assembly for the first time in over 30 years.

Early life and career

Shafer was born in New Castle, Pennsylvania, the youngest of the five children of the Rev. David P. Shafer and his wife Mina. In 1933, Shafer's father moved the family to Meadville, Pennsylvania to accept a position as pastor of the First Christian Church. The Shafer family had long roots in Crawford County where the Clark-Shafer Reunion was held until recently when the family has gotten so spread out throughout the country. Shafer became an Eagle Scout and as an adult was presented the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award by the Boy Scouts of America.

After finishing high school in Meadville, Shafer attended Allegheny College, where he was a member of Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity, and later Yale Law School. There, several classmates, such as William Scranton and Gerald Ford, would help shape his future political career.

In 1942, Shafer entered the United States Navy as a Naval intelligence officer and later served on PT Boats. He would participate in over 80 combat missions during World War II on PT Boats as commanding officer of PT-359 and later as executive officer of Squadron 27. As Squadron XO, Shafer sailed aboard PT-375, one of the first PT Boats to penetrate the defenses of Manila Bay. Shafer earned the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart during his tour in the Pacific theater.

Shafer returned to Meadville after the war and entered private law practice. His political career began in 1948 when he was elected District Attorney of Crawford County. In 1958, he was elected to the State Senate.

Post-gubernatorial career

After leaving the state government, he became a major player in national Republican politics as the unofficial leader of the third largest Republican state party in the country. He gave the nominating speech for New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller at the 1968 Republican National Convention, although the delegates instead chose former Vice President Richard Nixon as the party's Presidential candidate.

Many believe that Shafer's opposition to Nixon cost him the federal judgeship he was known to have desired. President Nixon appointed Shafer as chairman of the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, also known as the Shafer Commission. He was criticized in this role by many conservatives after the panel recommended the decriminalization of marijuana use.

From 1977 to 1988 he was a partner with the accounting firm of Coopers & Lybrand. He also served briefly as president of his alma mater, Allegheny College, from 1985 to 1986. He has also served on the Council on Foreign Relations.

Shafer died at the age of 89 in Meadville, Pennsylvania, on December 12, 2006. He was buried with military honors at St. John's Cemetery in Union Township, Crawford County, Pennsylvania.

A section of Interstate 79 in Pennsylvania is named "The Raymond P. Shafer Highway" after him, as are residence halls at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and Indiana University of Pennsylvania and the auditorium at Allegheny College.

Pennsylvania House Bill 1652 of 2011, introduced by Democratic State Rep. Mark B. Cohen, and Pennsylvania Senate Bill 1003 of 2011, introduced by Democratic State Senator Daylin Leach, are both named "The Governor Raymond P. Shafer Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act."

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