Edwin Meese III served as U.S. attorney general from 1985 to 1988. A close and trusted advisor to President RONALD REAGAN, Meese sought to advance the president's conservative agenda. His tenure, however, was clouded by allegations of ethical violations that eventually led to his resignation.
Meese was born on December 2, 1931, in Oakland, California. He graduated from Yale
University in 1953 and received his law degree from the University of California School of Law at Berkeley in 1958. From 1958 to 1967, Meese worked as a deputy district attorney for Alameda County, California.
From 1967 to 1969, Meese served then-California governor Ronald Reagan as secretary of legal affairs. In 1969, Meese became executive assistant to the governor, and in the following year he was made chief of staff. After Reagan left office, Meese worked in business and law, becoming the director of the Center for Criminal Justice and a professor of law at the University of California at San Diego in 1977.
When President Reagan took office in 1981, he appointed Meese as counselor to the president. In that role, Meese became an important advisor on domestic policy. Meese and Reagan shared a common agenda on legal topics. They sought to make ABORTION illegal and to restrict criminal defendants' rights, and were also in agreement on the issues of AFFIRMATIVE ACTION, and judicial activism. Meese helped to reshape the federal judiciary by advising the president on the appointments for more than half the federal judgeships.
In 1984, Reagan nominated Meese to be U.S. attorney general. Meese encountered fierce opposition from Senate Democrats, who questioned his commitment to CIVIL RIGHTS and his personal ethics. Meese admitted that he had paid no interest over 20 months on a $60,000 unsecured loan from a trust headed by John McKean, a California accountant whom he barely knew. McKean was later appointed, with the help of Meese, to the U.S. POSTAL SERVICE board of governors, a part-time position that paid $10,000 a year. This and other charges concerning Meese's personal finances contributed to a 13-month delay in his confirmation. The Senate eventually confirmed Meese, who became attorney general in March 1985.
As attorney general, Meese served as Chairman of the Domestic Policy Council and the National Drug Policy Board and was a member of the NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL. Meese