Robert P Casey
Robert Patrick Casey was born in Jackson Heights, New York on January 9, 1932 to Alphonsus (“Al”) L. and Marie Cummings Casey. Governor Casey’s great grandfather, Edward, emigrated from Ireland during the “great hunger” of 1851 and eventually settled in Pennsylvania’s anthracite region. Casey grew up in Scranton where his father practiced law. Al Casey had worked in a coal mine as a boy and as a laborer until finishing high school as a non-traditional student. Later he enrolled in and completed a law program at Fordham University in New York for individuals who did not hold a college degree. Returning to his native Scranton the elder Casey quickly earned a reputation as an exceptional lawyer who represented working people and aggrieved mineworkers. He was also active in county Democratic politics. Influenced by his father, “Spike,” as the younger Casey was widely known, graduated in 1949 from the Scranton Preparatory School where he was elected president of the senior class and head of student council. An avid athlete, Casey played baseball, headed the school’s varsity basketball squad, and was named one of the top five basketball players in Lackawanna County. His athletic talents earned him a tryout with the Philadelphia Phillies though he relinquished the offer to attend The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester Massachusetts on an athletic scholarship. There he earned a degree in English, cum laude, in 1953. Following graduation he married Scranton native Ellen Harding. The couple relocated to Washington, D.C. where Casey attended law school at the George Washington University on a trustee scholarship. Casey received his J.D. in 1956, practiced law in the nation’s capitol, and then returned to Scranton where he won election as a state senator in 1962. With the backing of the state Democratic Party he sought the governorship in 1966 and lost the primary to television cable mogul Milton J. Shapp who, in turn, lost the general election that year to outgoing Governor William W. Scranton’s lieutenant governor Raymond P. Shafer. In 1968, after serving as first vice president of the state constitutional convention, Casey was elected by a 440,000-vote margin as auditor general, the Commonwealth’s taxpayer watchdog. Two years later, at age thirty-eight, Casey sought the governor’s office for a second time with the endorsement of state Democrats. Once again, however, the primary went to Milton Shapp who won the office in November 1970. Casey was reelected auditor general in 1972 by a half-million vote margin in year when Republican presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon carried Pennsylvania by nearly a million votes. Few criticized the work Casey did as auditor general. He was credited with ending corrupt practices that had plagued the office for decades, hiring certified public accountants, investigating fraudulent use of state money, and saving Pennsylvania taxpayers millions of dollars. The reputation for integrity that Casey had earned caused one Philadelphia newspaper to refer to him as “too honest a politician” for the Keystone State.
The former state senator, auditor general, and governor retired to Scranton where he completed and published an autobiography, Fighting for Life, in 1996. Governor Casey died on May 30, 2000 from the long-term effects of amyloidosis. In addition to his wife Ellen he was survived by eight children: Margaret, Mary Ellen, Kathleen, Robert Jr., Christopher, Erin, Patrick, and Matthew; twenty-eight grandchildren, and his brother John.