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John David Ashcroft
John Ashcroft.jpg
79th United States Attorney General
In office
January 20, 2001 – February 3, 2005
President George W. Bush
Preceded by Janet Reno
Succeeded by Alberto Gonzales
United States Senator
from Missouri
In office
January 4, 1995 – January 3, 2001
Preceded by John Danforth
Succeeded by Jean Carnahan
50th Governor of Missouri
In office
January 14, 1985 – January 11, 1993
Lieutenant Harriet Woods (1985-1989)
Mel Carnahan (1989-1993)
Preceded by Christopher S. "Kit" Bond
Succeeded by Mel Carnahan
38th Missouri Attorney General
In office
Governor Joseph P. Teasdale
Kit Bond
Preceded by John Danforth
Succeeded by William L. Webster
29th State Auditor of Missouri
In office
Governor Kit Bond
Preceded by Kit Bond
Succeeded by George W. Lehr
Personal details
Born (1942-05-09) May 9, 1942 (age 80)
Chicago, Illinois
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Janet Ashcroft
Alma mater Yale University, University of Chicago

John David Ashcroft (born May 9, 1942) is an American lawyer, lobbyist, songwriter and former politician who served as the 79th U.S. Attorney General (2001–2005), in the George W. Bush Administration. He later founded The Ashcroft Group, a Washington D.C. lobbying firm.

Ashcroft previously served as Attorney General of Missouri (1976–1985), and as the 50th Governor of Missouri (1985–1993), having been elected for two consecutive terms in succession (a historical first for a Republican candidate in the state), and he also served as a U.S. Senator from Missouri (1995–2001).

He had early appointments in Missouri state government.

He has written several books about politics and ethics. Since 2011 he sits on the board of directors for the private military company Academi (formerly Blackwater), has been a member of the Federalist Society, and is a professor at the Regent University School of Law, a conservative Christian institution affiliated with televangelist Pat Robertson.

His son, Jay Ashcroft, is also a politician, serving as Secretary of State of Missouri since January, 2017.

Early life and education

Ashcroft was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Grace P. (née Larsen) and James Robert Ashcroft. His father was a minister in an Assemblies of God congregation, served as president of Evangel University (1958–74), and jointly as President of Central Bible College (1958–63). He later served as president of Valley Forge Christian College. His mother was a housewife whose parents immigrated from Norway.

Ashcroft went to school in Springfield, Missouri. He attended Yale University, where he was a member of Sigma Tau Gamma and the St. Elmo Society, graduating in 1964. He received a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Chicago School of Law (1967).

After law school, Ashcroft briefly taught Business Law and worked as an administrator at Southwest Missouri State University.

During the Vietnam War, he received six student draft deferments and one occupational deferment because of his teaching work.

Political career

In 1972, Ashcroft ran for a Congressional seat in southwest Missouri in the Republican primary election, narrowly losing to Gene Taylor. After the primary, Missouri Governor Kit Bond appointed Ashcroft to the office of State Auditor, which Bond had vacated when he became Governor.

In 1974, Ashcroft was narrowly defeated for election to that post by Jackson County County Executive George W. Lehr, who argued that Ashcroft, who is not an accountant, was not qualified to be the State Auditor.

Missouri Attorney General John Danforth, who was then in his second term, hired Ashcroft as an Assistant Attorney General. During his tenure there, Ashcroft shared an office with future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. (In 2001, Thomas administered Ashcroft's oath of office as U.S. Attorney General.)

In 1976, Danforth was elected to the U.S. Senate, and Ashcroft was elected to replace him as State Attorney General.

In 1980, Ashcroft was re-elected with 64.5 percent of the vote and winning 96 of Missouri's 114 counties.


Reagan Contact Sheet C20739 (cropped)
Ashcroft with President Ronald Reagan in 1984

Ashcroft was elected governor in 1984 and re-elected in 1988, becoming the first (and, to date, the only) Republican elected to two consecutive terms in Missouri history.

During his second term (1991-92), Ashcroft was the chairman of the National Governors Association.

As governor, Ashcroft helped enact tougher standards and sentencing for gun crimes, increased funding for local law enforcement, and tougher standards and punishment for people bringing guns into schools.

U.S. Senator

In 1994 Ashcroft was elected to the U.S. Senate from Missouri, again succeeding a retiring John Danforth. Ashcroft won 60% of the vote against Democratic Congressman Alan Wheat.

In 1998, Ashcroft briefly considered running for U.S. President; but on January 5, 1999, he announced that he would not seek the presidency and would instead defend his Senate seat in the 2000 election.

In the Republican primary, Ashcroft defeated Marc Perkel. In the general election, Ashcroft faced a challenge from Governor Mel Carnahan. In the midst of a tight race, Carnahan died in an airplane crash two weeks prior to the election. Ashcroft suspended all campaigning after the plane crash in light of the tragedy. Carnahan's name remained on the ballot because of Missouri state election laws. Lieutenant Governor Roger Wilson became governor upon Carnahan's death. Wilson said that should Carnahan be elected, he would like to appoint his widow, Jean Carnahan, to serve in her husband's place; Mrs. Carnahan announced that, in accordance with what her husband would have wanted, she would serve in the Senate if he won the election. Following these developments, Ashcroft resumed campaigning.

In spite of his death, Mel Carnahan won the election 51% to 49%. No one had ever posthumously won election to the Senate.

U.S. Attorney General

United States cropped G8 Justice and Home Affairs Ministers meeting member 20040511
Tom Ridge and John Ashcroft in 2004 in Washington, D.C.

In December 2000, following his Senatorial defeat, Ashcroft was chosen for the position of U.S. attorney general by president-elect George W. Bush who was impressed by Ashcroft. He was confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 58 to 42, with most Democratic senators voting against him, citing his prior opposition to using forced busing to achieve desegregation and opposition to Ashcroft's pro-life views.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, Ashcroft was a key supporter of passage of the USA PATRIOT Act.

On November 9, 2004, following George W. Bush's re-election, Ashcroft announced his resignation, which took effect on February 3, 2005 when the Senate confirmed White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales as the next attorney general. His hand-written resignation letter, dated November 2, stated: "The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved."

Personal life

John Ashcroft and his wife attend a post-recommissioning dinner for the battleship USS MISSOURI
Ashcroft in 1986

Ashcroft is a member of the Assemblies of God church. He is married to Janet E. Ashcroft and has three children with her. His son, Jay, is the Missouri Secretary of State.

Ashcroft had long enjoyed inspirational music and singing. In the 1970s, he recorded a gospel record entitled Truth: Volume One, Edition One, with the Missouri legislator Max Bacon, a Democrat.

With fellow U.S. senators Trent Lott, Larry Craig, and Jim Jeffords, Ashcroft formed a barbershop quartet called The Singing Senators. The men performed at social events with other senators. Ashcroft performed the Star Spangled Banner before the National Hockey League all-star game in St. Louis in 1988.

Ashcroft was given an honorary doctorate before giving the commencement at Toccoa Falls College in 2018.

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