Senator John Heinz was a Renaissance man gifted intellectually, athletically and spiritually. His death in 1991 was a tragic loss not only to friends and family, but to a nation desperate for a compassionate voice in Washington.
Art lover, champion of the elderly and protector of the environment, Heinz was the first heir of the vast H.J. Heinz Company to break from family tradition and enter politics. He wanted to help people. As his wife, Teresa, has said: “He had a rare gift for seeing the world in bright shades, and an even more uncommon gift for finding ways to share that vision with those for whom life had become cast in shades of hopeless grey. Through the prism of our nation, he saw a rainbow of hope and opportunity.”
John Heinz brought that hope with him wherever he went. Blessed with a warmth and charisma that crossed party lines, Heinz, a Republican, was extremely popular with Democrats in his state. He was the first Republican to carry every ward of the city of Pittsburgh during his 1976 senatorial campaign. People valued his desire for change and his respect for human dignity, and believed that the status quo was unacceptable.
“In the performance of his duties, both as a public servant and as a philanthropist, he was not merely tireless, he was joyfully ferocious, himself the embodiment of radiant living,” Teresa Heinz has said. John Heinz did not rest upon the laurels of inherited privilege and fortune; he used his life as a vehicle to help others.
Born October 23, 1938 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, John Heinz was the only child of industrialist/philanthropist H. J. Heinz II and Joan Diehl (Heinz) McCauley. Heinz lived with his mother and stepfather, U.S. Naval Aviator Captain C.C. “Monty” McCauley after his parents divorced in 1942. He grew up mainly in San Francisco but spent many summers with his father in Pittsburgh.
Heinz graduated from Yale University in 1960 with a bachelor’s degree in History, Arts and Letters, a special honors major, and received his master’s in Business Administration from Harvard in 1963. He met his future wife, Teresa Simões Ferreira, a student at the University of Geneva, during a summer break from graduate school.
Heinz enlisted in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and was on active duty in 1963. His early career included work as a special assistant to Senator Hugh Scott (R-PA) and as assistant campaign manager in Scott’s re-election bid.
He then worked in Pittsburgh in the financial and marketing division of the family business from 1965 to 1970. From 1970 through 1971, Heinz taught business in the Graduate School of Industrial Administration at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
Heinz entered politics in 1971 when Congressman Robert Corbett of Pennsylvania’s 18th District died. After a Republican nomination primary victory, he won a special election for Corbett’s unexpired term and won re-election easily in 1972 and again in 1974.
During his Congressional terms, Heinz developed expertise in three key issues that would determine his national reputation: the elderly, international commerce and the environment. When Senator Scott retired in 1976, Heinz battled to an election victory as U.S. Senator. He was re-elected in 1982 and 1988, and served in the Senate until his untimely death on April 4, 1991, in a plane crash in Philadelphia, en route to Medicare fraud hearings.
Heinz held more than 500 town meetings during his tenure and made countless visits to meet with Pennsylvania’s students, civic leaders, public officials, educators, working people and newspaper editorial boards.
Heinz’s long list of Senate activities included: service on the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; the Finance Committee; Chairmanship of the Subcommittee on International Finance and Monetary Policies; Chairmanship of the Special Committee on Aging; Chairmanship of the Republican Conference Task Force on Job Training and Education; National Commission on Social Security Reform, and the National Commission on Health Care Reform; the Northeast Coalition and the Steel Caucus.
Heinz’s reputation as a protector of the environment was established through his involvement in “Project 88,” which recommended market-based solutions to environmental problems, the Pennsylvania Wilderness Act and his chairmanship of GLOBE USA (Global Legislator’s Organization for a Balanced Environment).
John Heinz was an avid lover of beauty in both nature and the arts. He and his wife established a fine collection of late 18th- and 19th-century American paintings as well as Northern European still life paintings of the late 16th to mid-17th centuries. The Heinz collection of Dutch, Flemish and other still lifes was exhibited at the National Gallery of Art and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in 1989.
Heinz was an enthusiastic sportsman who enjoyed trout fishing, skiing, and tennis. While in the House of Representatives, he won the “King of the Hill” competition as the best overall athlete in Congress.
John Heinz was the father of three sons, Henry John IV, André and Christopher.