William Pelham Barr (born
May 23, 1950 in New York
City) is an American attorney who served as the 77th
of the United States.
Barr, the son of two Columbia University faculty members, grew up
on the Upper West side of Manhattan, attended Catholic parochial
school and Horace Mann High School, and received his bachelor's degree
in government and a
master's degree in government and Chinese studies, in 1971 and 1973
respectively, from Columbia
. He received his J.D.
with highest honors in 1977 from The George
Washington University Law School
. From 1973 to 1977, he was
employed by the Central
. Barr was a law
to Judge Malcolm Wilkey of the U.S.
of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
through 1978. He served on the domestic policy staff at the
White House from 1982 to 1983.
He was also in private practice for nine years with the Washington
of Shaw, Pittman, Potts &
In 1989, at the outset of his administration, President George H.W. Bush
appointed Barr to the U.S. Department of Justice as Assistant Attorney
General for the Office of
Legal Counsel, an office which functions as the legal advisor
to the President and executive branch agencies. Barr was known as a
strong defender of Presidential power and wrote advisory opinions
justifying the U.S. invasion of Panama and arrest
of Manuel Noriega, and a
controversial opinion that the F.B.I. could enter
onto foreign soil without the consent of the host government to
apprehend fugitives wanted for terrorism or
In May 1990, Barr was appointed Deputy Attorney
, the official responsible for day-to-day management of
the Department. According to media reports, Barr generally got high
marks for his professional running of the Department.
In August 1991, when then-Attorney General Richard Thornburgh
resigned to run for
the Senate, Barr was named Acting Attorney General. Three days
after Barr moved into that position, 121 Cuban inmates, awaiting
deportation to Cuba as extremely violent criminals, seized 9
hostages at the Talladega federal prison. Barr directed the
F.B.I.'s Hostage Rescue Team to carry out an assult on the prison,
which resulted in rescuing all hostages without loss of life. It
was reported that President Bush was impressed with Barr's handling
of the hostage crisis, and weeks later, President Bush nominated
him as Attorney General.
The media described Barr as staunchly conservative. The New York
Times described the "central theme" of his tenure to be: "his
contention that violent crime can be reduced only by expanding
Federal and state prisons to jail habitual violent offenders." At
the same time, reporters consistently describe Barr as affable with
a dry, self-deprecating wit.
After leaving the Department of Justice, Barr spent over 14 years
in senior corporate positions. At the end of 2008 he retired from
Communications, having served as
Executive Vice President and General
of GTE Corporation from 1994 until that company merged
with Bell Atlantic to become Verizon. During his corporate tenure,
Barr led a successful litigation campaign by the local phone
industry to achieve deregulation by scuttling a series of FCC
rules, personally arguring several key cases in the federal courts
of appeals and the Supreme Court. Barr currently serves on several
In his home state of Virginia, Barr was appointed in 1994 by
then-Governor George Allen to co-chair a commission to reform the
criminal justice system and abolish parole in the state.
served on the Board of Visitors of the College of
William & Mary in Williamsburg from 1997 to 2005.
Barr is an avid bagpiper, an avocation he began at the age of 8,
and has played competitively in Scotland with a leading American
Barr is a Roman Catholic
. He married
Christine Moynihan in June 1973, and they have three grown