- Category : 1931-births
- Type : PE
- Profile : 4/6 - Opportunistic / Role Model
- Definition : Triple Split
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Planning 4
American Attorney General, appointed by President Reagan in 1984, becoming one of the most political and controversial attorney generals of modern times. As Attorney General, he pressed a conservative agenda on abortion and civil rights. He promoted federal judges with strong conservative beliefs and tried to stamp out what he saw as a rising tide of pornographic literature in the U.S. After falling under investigation by Independent counsel James C. McKay and the Justice Department for violating federal conflict of interest and tax laws, Meese resigned in July 1988.
Meese grew up in Oakland, CA the son of a pious German Lutheran mother, Leone, and father Edwin, an elected treasurer-tax collector for Alameda County, CA. The boy was very close to his dad, a clerk in the police court before becoming an elected official. Meese was the oldest of four boys. He shared a room with his brother Myron who was born with spina bifida and left partially paralyzed. The family prayed together, attended the Zion Lutheran Church and drew strength from their conservative religious faith. Meese worked a paper route to earn his spending money. He attended Oakland High School and belonged to the debating team. He was a mediocre student at Yale University studying political science on a scholarship. After graduation, he went to the University of California, Berkeley to attend Boalt Hall law school. In 1954, he left Berkeley to work in U.S. Army Intelligence. He returned to Berkeley and graduated from the law school in 1958. He was immediately hired as a deputy in the Alameda District Attorney's office.
In the '60s, during the political and social upheavals of the Vietnam war, many college campuses began to erupt with social protests from students. Meese viewed the changes, especially to his alma mater UC Berkeley as a danger to society. Using his knowledge from U.S. Army Intelligence, he established new techniques and methods in mass arrests. He targeted subversives and used all law enforcement agencies to arrest protesters. He made sure officers arrested in the early morning to avoid large crowds and media attention. Organizers were nabbed first, leaving protesters lost without leaders. Polaroid cameras were used to take identifying photos on the spot for use in court.
In 1966, Governor Ronald Reagan asked Meese to become his legal affairs secretary. During a 1969 bloody uprising at San Francisco State College, Meese took control of the college. He was first named as a presidential counselor in November 1980, a job which paid $72,200 a year. He moved from California to Washington DC to be one of President Reagan's aides, his ideological conservative point man. His appointment became a continual embarrassment to the Reagan administration as he was a highly disorganized public official and seemingly oblivious to ethics. His personal finances were a reckless morass of debts; at one point in 1982 he owed nearly $483,000 in personal loans. He seemed unable to keep his modest personal finances in check, making him a questionable choice for his government position. Around Christmas 1983, he stated there was no authoritative evidence of a serious hunger problem in the U.S. People only visited the soup kitchens "because the food is free, and that's easier than paying for it." He was appointed in 1984 but did not become Attorney General until 1985 after a year of rancorous debate over his nomination in the Senate.
In his attempts to insure a conservative venue, he asked the Supreme Court to reverse its landmark 1973 decision legalizing abortion; attacked the over 20-year acceptance of the Miranda ruling on the rights of criminal suspects; and stumbled over major legal issues of the Reagan administration such as the nomination of Robert H. Bork to the Supreme Court. His early investigation of the Iran Contra scandal was inadequate. His relationship with personal injury attorney E. Robert Wallach came under investigation as a "trading of favors" case by the Justice Department.
In the summer of 1989 independent counsel James C. McKay concluded he would not choose to prosecute Meese on violating federal conflict of interest and tax laws. Meese resigned his office maintaining he had been "vindicated." In January 1989, the Justice Department charged that Meese violated presidential and Justice Department standards of conduct on several occasions. President Reagan and Attorney General Dick Thornburgh denunciated the findings of the Justice Department in favor of their friend Ed Meese. He returned to California and started his own private practice in a law firm.
Meese married Ursula Herrick, the daughter of the Oakland postmaster, in 1958. She was a graduate of Radcliffe and worked as a probation officer before her marriage. The couple had three children, Michael in 1961, Scott in 1963 and daughter Dana in 1967. The Meese's suffered a terrible tragedy when their 19-year-old son Scott was killed in a car accident in 1982. Their grandson, named Scott after his uncle, died of sudden infant death syndrome in 1987.
The family preferred simplicity in the household, opting for barbecues in the backyard rather than cocktail parties in the living room. Meese and his wife dressed down at home and kept an unpretentious style.