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Richard Mellon Scaife, Philanthropist, Conservative Donor, Dies

Richard Mellon Scaife, the billionaire philanthropist and conservative activist from Pittsburgh, died Friday. He was 82.
Keith Srakocic
Richard Mellon Scaife, the billionaire philanthropist and conservative activist from Pittsburgh, died Friday. He was 82.

Richard Mellon Scaife, the billionaire philanthropist and conservative donor from Pittsburgh who was heir to the Mellon banking and oil fortune, has died. He was 82.

His death was reported by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the newspaper he owned.

NPR's Hansi Lo Wang is reporting on the story, and says:

"Throughout his life, Scaife leveraged his wealth to promote libertarian and conservative ideas. He also helped fuel the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. An avid newspaper reader since childhood, who once owned a horse named Newsgirl, Scaife owned several papers as an adult. This past May, he revealed his recent cancer diagnosis in a column he wrote for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. In it, he described his hope that "newspapers remain the strong guardians of our lives" and that the papers he owned will be his 'most valuable legacy.'"

"Some who dislike me may rejoice at this news," Scaife wrote at the time of his cancer diagnosis. "Naturally, I can't share their enthusiasm."

Indeed, Scaife was a polarizing figure. As his newspaper notes:

"Many of the nation's leading conservatives considered him to be the man who sustained the Republican Party after its crushing defeat in the 1964 presidential election and the Watergate scandal in 1972.

"His support for and promotion of a conservative agenda led to Ronald Reagan's election as president in 1980 and the nation's turn toward the principles those two men shared."

Scaife, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported, was also among the area's biggest philanthropists. He funded the "art museum at The Carnegie, the historic redevelopment of Station Square and numerous other institutions."

Scaife was married – and divorced – twice. He is survived by his daughter, Jennie K. Scaife, and son, David N. Scaife.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.

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