Raymond Donovan, Reagan’s Labor secretary who quit under cloud of suspicion, dies at 90

Raymond Donovan, shown in 1980, speaks into microphones.
After his acquittal in 1987, Raymond Donovan famously asked, “Which office do I go to to get my reputation back?”
(Associated Press)

Raymond Donovan, a construction company executive who resigned as secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor following grand larceny and other charges of which he was later acquitted by a jury, has died at his home in New Vernon, N.J.

Donovan, 90, was surrounded by family when he died June 2 of congestive heart failure, according to an obituary posted on the website of Gallaway and Crane funeral home in Basking Ridge, N.J.

After his acquittal, Donovan became famous for asking, “Which office do I go to to get my reputation back?”

Donovan was born Aug. 31, 1930, one of 12 children, in Bayonne, N.J., and attended seminaries in Alabama and New Orleans but left before ordination to go into business, becoming a partner in Schiavone Construction Co. He also founded Fiddler’s Elbow Country Club in Bedminster, N.J., according to the obituary.


A leading fundraiser in Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign, Donovan was named Reagan’s Labor secretary and served from 1981 to 1985, resigning after a judge refused to dismiss an indictment filed in September 1984 by the Bronx district attorney.

The indictment accused Donovan and nine others of grand larceny, false record-keeping and false statements in connection with construction money that prosecutors said should have gone to a minority-owned subcontractor in a 1979 New York City subway project.

Donovan contested the accusations, calling the prosecution “unfounded and politically motivated.” He and his co-defendants were acquitted in May 1987, following an eight-month trial.

An earlier investigation into allegations of links to organized crime figures had ended with a federal special prosecutor citing ″insufficient credible evidence″ for prosecution.

Donovan “will be remembered by many as a loyal friend, honest businessman, faithful member of the Catholic Church, and dedicated patriot,” his obituary says, also citing his love of golf and politics and calling him “a sublime raconteur, who entertained family and friends for hours with stories from his life, most of which were generously embellished.”

Donovan is survived by his wife of 63 years, Cathy, as well as three children and nine grandchildren.