Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County
Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania's senior US Senator and former district attorney in Philadelphia, wrote Passion for Truth about his extensive career in law enforcement and politics.
Senator Arlen Specter was born February 12, 1930, in Wichita, Kansas. He graduated in 1951 from the University of Pennsylvania and then served in the United States Air Force. Specter graduated from Yale University in 1956. Specter was assistant counsel to the Warren Commission in 1964. From 1966 to 1974, he was Philadelphia’s district attorney. Specter became a U.S. Senator in 1980. Specter chaired the Labor, Health & Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, Senate Intelligence, Veterans Committee, and Judiciary Committee. Specter wrote the Armed Forces Criminal Act, the Terrorist Prosecution Act, and Passion for Truth: From Finding JFK’s Single Bullet to Questioning Anita Hill to Impeaching Clinton.
Arlen Specter was born on February 12, 1930, to immigrant Jewish parents in Wichita, KS. Raised in a small town on the plains of western Kansas, Specter attended a local public school. At four, Specter was jokingly made a deputy sheriff of Sedgwick County, Kansas, and the comic story landed him in “Ripley’s Believe it or Not!”
Specter’s pursuit of higher education led him to Philadelphia, where he attended the University of Pennsylvania and graduated as a Phi Beta Kappa in 1951. After the completion of his undergraduate degree, Specter served in the United States Air Force from 1951 to 1953. After leaving the service, Specter attended Yale University where he worked as editor for the Yale Law School Journal while earning his law degree.
After passing the Pennsylvania bar in 1956, Specter began to practice law in Philadelphia, where he became a renowned lawyer. He is most noted for defending convicted murderer and former felon Ira Einhorn. From 1959 to 1964, Specter worked as assistant district attorney of Philadelphia. On April 28, 2005, Specter commented on his former work as assistant district attorney at a Congressional Executive Session saying, “Sometimes I am asked what is the best job I ever had, Senator or district attorney, and I say assistant district attorney. That is where there is a great deal of experience.”
In 1964, Specter investigated the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy with the Warren Commission. As a chief counsel for the Warren Commission, he devised the controversial “single bullet theory,” concluding that a single gunman had killed Kennedy. He shares his investigative experience in his 2000 memoir Passion for Truth: From Finding JFK’s Single Bullet to Questioning Anita Hill to Impeaching Clinton. In his memoir, Specter explains his pursuit for facts that guided his involvement in the investigation. In Passion for Truth, coauthored with press secretary Charles Robbins, Specter claims, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” His direct language reflects the firm resolve he once displayed in response to those who doubted the “single-bullet theory,” also referred to as the “magic bullet theory.”
During 1966 to 1974, Specter served Philadelphia as district attorney. He continued his pursuit of truth by practicing law as a private attorney from 1974 to 1980. He was admitted to the New Jersey Bar in 1979 and to the District of Columbia Bar in 1983. Long identified with Philadelphia, Specter became a significant figure statewide when Pennsylvanians elected him to the U.S. Senate in 1980. Specter has since been re-elected for four consecutive terms. As United States Senator from 1980 until the present, Arlen Specter has consciously promoted “Pennsylvania’s interests in agriculture, high-tech, steel, coal, tourism, mass transit, highways, and military installations,” as his official website celebrates.
In his role as Senator, Specter has chaired and has belonged to many committees. Senator Specter has authored legislation with a lasting impact on America, including the Armed Career Criminal Act as well as the Terrorist Prosecution Act, which promotes justice in American courts for Americans assaulted, maimed, or murdered while abroad.
Senator Specter was the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence from 1995 until 1997. During this time, he authored the bill that created the Inspector General of the Central Intelligence Agency. “The bill was the only reform legislation to emerge from the Iran-Contra affair,” which his official website explains.
From 1997 to 2001, Specter chaired the Committee on Veteran Affairs in which he fought for just treatment of injured Veterans.
On January 4, 2005, Senator Specter assumed the responsibility for confirming all federal judicial appointments by President George W. Bush in his role as senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Arlen Specter lives in Philadelphia with his wife Joan, the former four-term Philadelphia Councilwoman. They have two sons, Shanin and Stephen, and four grandchildren: Silvi, Perri, Lilli, and Hatti. In the spring of 2004, he suffered a bout with cancer. He also narrowly survived a Republican primary challenge from former U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey for re-nomination; Specter won that race and successfully secured his fifth term in the Senate that fall. Six years later with Toomey again mounting a challenge for the nomination, Specter decided he could no longer remain a member of the Republican Party. In an April 28 news conference, Specter said: “As the Republican Party has moved farther and farther to the right, I have found myself increasingly at odds with the Republican philosophy and more in line with the philosophy of the Democratic Party.” He also cited poll numbers that cast doubts on his ability to win the Republican nomination. With that, Specter became the 59th Democrat in U.S. Senate during the 111th Congress.
Passion for Truth: From Finding JFK’s Single Bullet to Questioning Anita Hill to Impeaching Clinton. (With Charles Robbins) New York: William Morrow, 2000.
Abbott, Charlotte; Sarah F. Gold; and Mark Rotella. “Passion For Truth: From Finding JFK”s Single Bullet to Questioning Anita Hill to Impeaching Clinton.” Publishers Weekly 247:43 (October 2000): 66.
Cohan, Jeffrey. “Senate Race A Study In Contrasts: Wily Veteran Specter Faces Challenge From Lesser-Known Hoeffel.” Pittsburgh Post Gazette. 11 Oct. 2004: A-1.
Congressional Information Service, Inc. “Benjamin Franklin National Memorial Commemoration Act of 2005.” Lexis Nexis. 17 Mar. 2005. Reed Elsevier Inc. Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA. 25 Apr. 2005. <http://web.lexis- nexis.com.ezproxy.libraries.psu.edu/congcomp/ document?_m=308b536fe0215357e5199 51e56955fe5&_docnum=7&wchp=dGLbVzbzSkSA&_md5 =707b9cc8ff6ea8916d56c1e 38dd002be>.
Congressional Information Service, Inc. “Steel Industry National Historic Site Act.” Lexis Nexis. 14 Mar. 2005. Reed Elsevier Inc. Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA. 25 Apr. 2005. <http://web.lexisnexis.com.ezproxy.libraries.psu.edu/ congcomp/document?_m=308b536f e0215357e519951e56955fe5 &_docnum=5&wchp=dGLbVzbzSkSA&_md5 =0df43fa5ad a68fa1b40db4762f3fadb4>.
Fitzgerald, Thomas. “Specter Quits GOP, Will Run as Democrat. Philadelphia Inquirer 29 Apr. 2009: A1+.
Nicholas, Peter. “At 72, Specter’s Still Not Slowing Down, Still Not Easy to Work For.” Pittsburgh Post Gazette. 7 Apr. 2002: A-15.
Specter, Arlen. Passion for Truth: From Finding JFK’s Single Bullet to Questioning Anita Hill to Impeaching Clinton. (With Charles Robbins) New York: William Morrow, 2000.