Spiro Theodore Agnew was born in Baltimore on November 9, 1918. His father, whose name had been Anagnostopoulos, arrived in the United States from Greece in 1897; his mother was a native of Virginia. His father peddled vegetables from a truck and then went into the restaurant business.
Spiro Agnew graduated from public school in 1937 and entered Johns Hopkins University. He majored in chemistry but had a poor academic record and left to enter the then unaccredited University of Baltimore Law School, attending classes at night and working by day as a file clerk for an insurance company. There he met Elinor Isabel Judefind, to whom he was married in 1942, three days after he graduated from an Army Officers Candidate School. In the war Spiro Agnew served as a company commander with the 10th Armored Division in four campaigns in Europe and was awarded a Bronze Star. While he was away, the Agnews' first child, Pamela Lee, was born, in 1943. A son, James Rand, called Randy, was born in 1946; another daughter, Susan, in 1948, and a third daughter, Kimberly, in 1956.
As a returned veteran, Spiro Agnew completed the University of Baltimore law course in 1947. He was hired by a large supermarket and given a variety of duties, from hiring to serving as assistant manager and helping at the cash register. In 1951, he was recalled for Army service and sent to Fort Meade, Maryland, and Fort Benning, Georgia When he was mustered out, he worked briefly in several Baltimore County law firms and moved to the Baltimore County suburbs.
Although his father was a Baltimore Democratic ward leader and Agnew had first registered as a Democrat, his law partners were Republicans and he joined their party. In 1957 the Democratic county executive of Baltimore County appointed him to the board of zoning appeals. In 1960 Agnew made his first race for elective office, running for associate circuit judge, and coming in fifth in a five-person contest. In 1961, when a new county executive dropped him from the zoning board, Agnew protested vigorously and in so doing built his name recognition in the county. The following year he ran for county executive. A bitter split in the Democratic party helped make him the first Republican elected Baltimore County executive in the twentieth century. In office he established a relatively progressive record, and in 1966, when nominated as the Republican candidate for governor of Maryland, Agnew positioned himself to the left of his Democratic challenger, George Mahoney. An arch segregationist, Mahoney adopted the campaign slogan, "Your Home Is Your Castle—Protect It," which only drove liberal Democrats into Agnew's camp. Charging Mahoney with racial bigotry, Agnew captured the liberal suburbs around Washington and was elected governor.
It came as a shock to Agnew's liberal supporters when as governor he took a more hard-line conservative stance on racial matters than he had during the campaign. Early in 1968, students at the predominantly African American Bowie State College occupied the administration building to protest the run-down condition of their campus—at a time when Maryland essentially ran separate college systems for black and white students. Instead of negotiating, Agnew sent the state police to take back the administration building. When the students went to Annapolis to protest, Agnew ordered their arrest and had the college temporarily closed down. Then in April, when riots broke out in Baltimore following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Governor Agnew summoned black leaders to his office. Rather than appeal for their help, he castigated them for capitulating to radical agitators. "You were intimidated by veiled threats," Agnew charged, "you were stung by . . . epithets like `Uncle Tom.'" Half of the black leaders walked out before he finished speaking. "He talked to us like we were children," one state senator complained. The incident dramatically reversed Agnew's public image, alienating his liberal supporters and raising his standing among conservatives.
It was with this background that Spiro Agnew arrived at the Republican National Convention in 1968 as Maryland's favorite-son candidate. He was chosen to make the nominating speech for Richard Nixon. After Richard Nixon's easy first-ballot victory, it took 28 hours of intense debate to decide on Agnew. Even he was astonished. ''I am stunned,'' Spiro Agnew said. ''I had no idea that this would happen. It's like a bolt from the blue.'' In November the Nixon-Agnew ticket won a razor-thin victory over the Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey and the independent candidacy of Alabama Governor George Wallace.
Although Nixon had chosen a running mate who would not outshine him, he had pledged to give his vice president a significant policy-making role and—for the first time—an office in the West Wing of the White House. Nixon also encouraged Agnew to use his position as presiding officer of the Senate to get to know the members of Congress in order to serve as their liaison with the White House, and Agnew enthusiastically charged up Capitol Hill. Having had no previous legislative experience, he wanted to master the techniques of presiding over the Senate. For the first months of his vice-presidency, he met each morning with the Senate parliamentarian, Floyd Riddick, to discuss parliamentary procedures and precedents.
Although he was becoming increasingly controversial, Spiro Agnew had no difficulty staying on the ticket in 1972, and was clearly beginning to position himself for a run for the Presidency in 1976. Then in February 1973 came the first indications of trouble. A grand jury in Baltimore was looking into his affairs.
By April, Agnew had retained counsel and informed President Nixon of the investigation by the office of George Beall, the United States Attorney for Baltimore. By early August the Vice President had been officially informed of the investigation and asked for documents; four days later, Mr. Agnew informed the press of the investigation, already widely rumored; two days after that, he denounced the charges against him and said he would not resign. So it went, nearly day by day in August: the Vice President denounced ''leaks'' to the press from the Justice Department; he announced that he would open his files to the Justice Department; he had a meeting with the President. In early September, the President issued a statement of confidence in Mr. Agnew ''during the period that he has served as Vice President.'' Increasingly, news reports continued to say that Mr. Agnew would resign, and Mr. Agnew continued to deny it. He told a Republican audience in Los Angeles on Sept. 29: ''I will not resign if indicted! I will not resign if indicted!''
Mr. Agnew tried valiantly to keep the case out of the courts and place his fate in the hands of Congress, where he might hope to influence the outcome of an impeachment procedure. He raised the question of whether he could be indicted before an impeachment, and Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson said the answer was yes.
Meanwhile, his attorneys bargained with the United States Attorney's office, hoping for a compromise. And on Oct. 10, 1973, this letter from Mr. Agnew was delivered to Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger: ''I hereby resign the office of Vice President of the United States, effective immediately.''