Biography of Don Bailey
Don was born in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania on July 21, 1945. He was the eighth child of Glenn & Anna Bailey. The family moved to neighboring Westmoreland County where Don entered Greensburg Salem H.S.. He was a member of the National Honor Society and enjoyed an outstanding athletic career. He was a County wrestling champion, set a number of records in the discus, and in his senior year was selected as a first-team all-state football player.
Widely recruited, Don accepted an athletics/academic scholarship to the University of Michigan graduating in 1967 with a B.A. in political science. He then joined the United States Army, volunteered for service in Vietnam, and returned to attend Duquesne University law school in Pittsburgh. Don graduated from Duquesne in 1976 earning his Juris Doctorate and then began his political career.
Breakdowns regarding his military service and political career appear below.
Vietnam War service
After college Don Bailey joined the United States Army. He graduated from Infantry OCS (officer candidate school – Fort Benning Georgia) and then served with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg North Carolina. He volunteered for service in Vietnam where he joined the 101st Airborne Division in Northern I Corp. He began service in Vietnam as a platoon leader with A company 1/502.
Seeing extensive combat he was awarded the Silver Star, 3 Bronze Stars, 2 with “V” for Valor and one for meritorious achievement. He was additionally awarded 2 Army Commendation Medals, 1 with “V” for Valor,and one for meritorious service. He also earned the Air Medal for successfully completing at least 30 combat assaults.
He has always emphatically asserted the great pride he has in being a Vietnam Veteran, declaring that he is proud of his service, and that he would not hesitate to serve again.
Law school education
During high school and college Don worked at a number of “blue collar” jobs, including as a steelworker at J. & L. Steel Corp (Southside Pittsburgh) on the labor gang and as 3rd helper on the specialty furnace. During that time he became a member of the United Steelworkers of America.
He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1967 with a degree in Liberal Arts, joined the Army, and later attended Duquesne University School of Law earning his Juris Doctorate in 1976, relying on the G.I. Bill. He was admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar association the same year.
United States House of Representatives
After an extremely close and highly contested primary, and a more comfortable general election, Bailey was elected to the United States House of representatives as a US Congressman from the state’s 21st Congressional District in 1978. He won an impressive reelection bid in 1980, despite the general Republican victory that year, garnering about 70% of the vote.
Bailey served initially on the Education & Labor, and Armed Services Committees and then was honored to be selected by his colleagues for service on the Ways and Means Committee. He was generally considered a moderate-to-conservative Democrat.
In 1982, after redistricting by the state legislature, Bailey’s district was one of two eliminated as a result of slow-growth in Pennsylvania compared to other states. Most of his district, including his home in Westmoreland County, was merged with the 12th District of fellow Democrat and fellow Vietnam veteran John Murtha, who had been serving since 1974.
Even though the primary was closely fought, Bailey lost largely because Murtha retained nearly all of his old district. Interestingly, when the Republican nominee for the seat withdrew the same year, Bailey was seriously considered as a replacement; he came in a very strong second at the Republican nominating convention held that year.
Auditor General of Pennsylvania
In 1984, Bailey won the Democratic nomination for Pennsylvania Auditor General in a hotly contested primary; he handily won in November. He was the only Democratic nominee to win statewide that year. During his tenure as Auditor General, Bailey established the first work-site child daycare facility in Pennsylvania government, established minimum education standards for state auditors, and generally modernized auditing procedures.
United States Senate and Pennsylvania Governor Races
Despite Bailey’s electoral success in 1984, he lost a bitter primary battle with then Congressman Bob Edgar for the Senate seat of Arlen Specter in 1986. In a close race in 1988, he lost his reelection bid for Auditor General to then-Republican Barbara Hafer (her first statewide run).
Bailey ran for Auditor General again in 1992, and lost the Democratic primary. He also lost the Democratic gubernatorial primary to Ivan Itkin in 1998.
Don Bailey currently practices law in Harrisburg, PA.