Caspar Willard Weinberger, a former California assemblyman who served as
Governor Ronald Reagan’s director of finance before serving as President
Reagan’s secretary of defense, died this week in Bangor, Maine. He was 88
Weinberger, a native San Franciscan, served as defense secretary longer than
anyone else in American history. He resigned in November 1987 after being
implicated in the arms-for-hostages deal known as the Iran-Contra Affair. In
1992, shortly before he was scheduled to stand trial on felony perjury
charges, Weinberger was pardoned by President George H.W. Bush.
Weinberger received a law degree from Harvard University before enlisting in
the Army in 1941. Weinberger served with the 41st Infantry Division during
World War II.
He served three terms in the state Assembly, his first beginning in 1952. In
1958, he ran for attorney general, losing to Democrat Stanley Mosk.
Weinberger became chairman of the California Republican Party in 1962.
After Ronald Reagan’s election as governor in 1966, Weinberger was tapped to
join the administration, first as the head of Reagan’s Commission on
California State Government Organization and Economy and then as head of the
state Department of Finance in 1968, where his fiscal conservatism earned
him the nickname “Cap the Knife.”
He joined the Nixon Administration in 1970 as chairman of the Federal Trade
Commission, and later served as head of the Office of Management and Budget
and as health secretary.
As Reagan’s secretary of defense, Weinberger oversaw a massive retooling and
rebuilding of the American military. Weinberger was a strong advocate of the
so-called “Star Wars” missile-defense shield. After leaving office in
November 1987, Weinberger was indicted on felony counts of perjury for lying
to investigators during the Iran-Contra probe. Bush pardoned Weinberger on
Christmas Eve 1992, just before he was scheduled to stand trial, and after
Bush already had lost his bid for re-election to Bill Clinton.
“I am pardoning him not just out of compassion or to spare a 75-year-old
patriot the torment of lengthy and costly legal proceedings, but to make it
possible for him to receive the honor he deserves for his extraordinary
service to our country,” Bush said in a proclamation granting executive
After his government service, Weinberger became publisher of Forbes Magazine
and authored a 1990 memoir of his years in the defense department.
Weinberger is survived by his wife, Jane, his son, Casper Jr., and his