U.S. Attorneys General


The U.S. Attorney General (AG) is the head of the US Department of Justice and is the chief law enforcement officer of the US government. The AG is a member of the President's cabinet but must be confirmed by the US Senate. As such, the AG can be impeached by the House of Representatives and then tried by the Senate. This is part one of a series; see 1960-1980.

Michael Mukasey, 81st Attorney General

White House
Michael Mukasey was confirmed by the United States Senate on 8 November 2007. Prior to becoming Attorney General, he had a lengthy career as an attorney, including service as an Assistant United States Attorney from 1972 to 1976 in New York. From 1976 to 1987 he was an associate, and then member, of the firm Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler. Mukasey was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 and served until 2006, the last six years as chief judge. Upon his retirement from the bench, Mukasey returned to Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler.

Alberto Gonzales, 80th Attorney General

Alberto Gonzales
DOJ Photo
Gonzales served as attorney general (President Bush) from 3 Feb 2005 - 17 Sep 2007. He was born in San Antonio, TX (4 Aug 1955) and attended Rice University and Harvard Law School. He enlisted in the US Air Force in 1973. Gonzales served as counsel to Governor Bush, who later made him Texas Secretary of State and then appointed him to the Texas Supreme Court. Before becoming AG, he was White House Counsel (2001-2005) where he authored a controversial opinion on the Geneva Conventions and successfully protected Vice President Cheney's Energy Task Force from Congressional review. He was confirmed by a 60-36, party-line vote.

John Ashcroft, 79th Attorney General

John Ashcroft
DOJ Photo
Ashcroft served as attorney general (President Bush) from 2 Feb 2001 - 3 Feb 2005. He was born in Chicago, IL (9 May 1942) and attended Yale University and the University of Chicago. He served two terms as Missouri AG and was Governor of Missouri 1985-1993. In 1994, he was elected to the Senate; he lost in 2000. As AG, Ashcroft endorsed the Patriot Act and proposed a domestic surveillance program. In 2005, he formed The Ashcroft Group, LLC. In 2007, he became the center of the controversial warrantless wiretap program because of conflicting testimony between AG Gonzales and then Acting Attorney General James Comey about events in 2004. Ashcroft was confirmed as AG on a 52-48 vote.

Janet Reno, 78th Attorney General

Janet Reno
DOJ Photo
Reno served as attorney general (President Clinton) from 12 Mar 1993 - 20 Jan 2001. She was born in Miami, FL (21 July 1938) and attended Cornell University and Harvard Law School. She was director of the Florida House of Representatives Judiciary Committee and, after appointment, was elected State Attorney for Dade County five times. As AG, she launched an anti-trust case against Microsoft, led the conviction of domestic terrorists Timonthy McVeigh and the Unabomber and was embroiled in controversy sending six-year-old Elián González back to Cuba. She was the longest serving AG in the 20th century. She ran unsuccessfully for Governor of Florida in 2002. Reno was confirmed by the Senate on a 98-2 vote.

William Barr, 77th Attorney General

William Barr
DOJ Photo

Barr served as attorney general (President Bush) from 26 Nov 1991 - 20 Jan 1993. He was born in New York City (23 May 1950) and attended Columbia University and George Washington University. He worked for the CIA from 1973-1977 and was a member of White House staff from 1982-1983. He held various positions at DOJ from 1989 to his appointment as AG in 1991. Since 2004, he has been General Counsel for Verizon. No roll call vote listed.

Dick Thornburgh, 76th Attorney General

Dick Thornburgh
DOJ Photo
Thornburgh served as attorney general (Presidents Reagan and Bush) from 12 Aug 1988 - 15 Aug 1999. He was born in Pittsburgh, PA (16 July 1932) and attended Yale University and the University of Pittsburgh. He was US Attorney for Western Pennsylvania from 1969 to 1975 and worked at DOJ under President Ford. He served two terms as Governor of Pennsylvania (1978-1987), where he campaigned on an anti-corruption platform. He was also Director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. As AG, he oversaw the investigation into the Exxon Valdez oil spill. He resigned to make an unsuccessful Senate run. In 2002, he investigated the WorldCom bankruptcy. He is in private practice at K&L Gates.

Edwin Meese III, 75th Attorney General

Edwin Meese III
DOJ Photo
Meese served as attorney general (President Reagan) from 25 Feb 1985 - 12 Aug 1998. He was born (2 Dec 1931) in Oakland, CA and attended Yale University and the University of California, Berkeley. He was Governor Reagan's chief of staff and Professor of Law at the University of San Diego. Prior to being appointed AG, he was White House counsel. He is the Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow in Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation.

William French Smith, 74th Attorney General

William French Smith
Publicity Photo
Smith served as attorney general (President Reagan) from 23 Jan 1981 - 25 Feb 1985. He was born (26 Aug 1917) in Wilton, NH and attended the University of California, Los Angeles and Harvard Law School. A lieutenant in the US Naval Reserve, Smith was in private practice when appointed AG. Died 29 Oct 1990.

Benjamin R. Civiletti, 73rd Attorney General

Benjamin R. Civiletti
Publicity Photo
Civiletti served as attorney general (President Carter) from 16 Aug 1979 - 19 Jan 1981. He was born (17 July 1935) in Peekskill, NY and attended Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland School of Law. He was Assistant US Attorney for the District of Maryland from 1962-1964 and held various positions in the Justice Department from 1977-1979 before being named AG. He is in private practice.
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Your Citation
Gill, Kathy. "U.S. Attorneys General." ThoughtCo, Nov. 24, 2008, thoughtco.com/us-attorneys-general-1980-to-2007-3952234. Gill, Kathy. (2008, November 24). U.S. Attorneys General. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/us-attorneys-general-1980-to-2007-3952234 Gill, Kathy. "U.S. Attorneys General." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/us-attorneys-general-1980-to-2007-3952234 (accessed November 21, 2017).