Arthur B. Culvahouse, Jr.

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Arthur Culvahouse
Arthur B. Culvahouse, Jr.jpg
White House Counsel
In office
March 20, 1987 – January 20, 1989
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Peter Wallison
Succeeded by Boyden Gray
Personal details
Born Arthur Boggess Culvahouse, Jr.
(1948-07-04) July 4, 1948 (age 74)
Ten Mile, Tennessee, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Pamela Culvahouse (2001–present)
Alma mater University of Tennessee (B.A.)
New York University (J.D.)

Arthur Boggess Culvahouse, Jr. (born July 4, 1948) is the former Chair of O'Melveny & Myers, an international law firm of more than 1,000 lawyers with offices around the world. Culvahouse also served as counsel to Ronald Reagan in the last two years of his presidency, and was entrusted by John McCain to vet his vice presidential candidates.

Culvahouse was born in Ten Mile, Tennessee, the son of Ruth (Wear) and Arthur Boggess Culvahouse.[1] He practiced law with O’Melveny & Myers from 1976 to 1984, and from 1989 until the present.

From 1973 to 1976, Culvahouse was Chief Legislative Assistant/Counsel to Senator Howard H. Baker, Jr.[2]

Reagan Chief Counsel

From 1987 to 1989, Culvahouse served as Counsel to U.S. President Ronald Reagan.[2] As White House Counsel, he advised the President on matters ranging from Iran-Contra investigations, to the Supreme Court nominations of Robert Bork and Anthony Kennedy, to the legal aspects of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Culvahouse served as Bork's "handler" during his rejected Senate confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court.[2]

In January 1989, Reagan awarded Culvahouse the Presidential Citizens’ Medal, an award established in 1969 to "recognize citizens who performed exemplary deeds of service for the country or their fellow citizens."

Post-White House

From 1990 to 1992, Culvahouse served as a member of the Federal Advisory Committee on Nuclear Failsafe and Risk Reduction, appointed by Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, to evaluate and recommend improvements in the United States’ Nuclear Command and Control System.

In December 1992, Cheney awarded Culvahouse the Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service. Culvahouse’s prior service on boards and commissions includes service on the Supreme Court Fellows Commission (2002–2005), the Board of Visitors of the U.S. Naval Academy (1989–1991), and the Counterintelligence Advisory Panel to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (1989–1990).

Culvahouse is currently a member of the Brookings Institution Board of Trustees, and the Leadership Board of the Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness.

McCain campaign

In May 2008, Culvahouse was chosen to head presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain's search for a Vice Presidential running mate, the first time that Culvahouse had ever been involved in a presidential campaign.[3][4] At the same time, he won a third four-year term to the chairmanship of his law firm.[2] Culvahouse was mentioned in the American Bar Association's journal as a possible Attorney General in a John McCain presidency, because "a lot of Democrats in Washington respect him and he has private access to a lot of ears on Capitol Hill."[2]

McCain's pick of Sarah Palin for vice president led to controversy over the vetting process.[5][6] In 2009, Culvahouse defended his vetting in a speech to the Republican National Lawyers Association: Palin "had a lot of capacity. The mistake I made -- and we've laughed about it since -- after giving [McCain] that advice, he said, 'Well, what's your bottom line?' I said, 'John. High risk, high reward.' And his response, ‘You shouldn't have told me that, I've been a risk-taker all of my life.'"[7]

“Me and two of my most cynical partners interviewed [Palin], and came away impressed,” Culvahouse said.[7]



  1. "Ruth Wear b. 17 Feb 1924 Tennessee d. 3 Sep 2001 Watts Bar Lake, Ten Mile, Tennessee: Smoky Mountain Ancestral Quest". Retrieved 8 May 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Carter, Terry (November 2008). "The Lawyers Who May Run America". ABA Journal. Retrieved 2008-10-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Rushing, J. Taylor (May 23, 2008). "McCain picks former Reagan official to head VP search". The Hill. Archived from the original on May 25, 2008. Retrieved June 12, 2012. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Sidoti, Liz (June 24, 2008). "McCain choice to help with veep is discreet lawyer". USA Today. Retrieved June 12, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Jones, Ashby (2008-09-03). "As Palin Gets Picked Over, Some Eyes Turn to Culvahouse". The Wall Street Journal.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Baxter, Brian (September 3, 2008). "Palin Disclosures Raise Questions About Lawyers' Vetting Process". The American Lawyer. Retrieved June 12, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 Bailey, Holly. "Culvahouse on Palin: Impressive, but Not Ready". Daily Beast. Retrieved June 12, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
Peter Wallison
White House Counsel
Succeeded by
Boyden Gray