Spiro Agnew was born Spiros Anagnostopoulos on November 9, 1918 in Towson, Maryland. His parents, Theodore and Margaret, were Greek immigrants that moved to the United States in 1897. They owned a diner that was famous for its Greek food in the Baltimore area.
As a youth, Spiro went to Baltimore area public schools and had an early interest in science. After graduating, he enrolled in the Johns Hopkins University's chemistry program in 1937. However, the arrival of World War 2 led him to join the US Army and serve his country. He was shipped to Europe, where he fought the Germans in France and Germany. For his service, he was awarded the Bronze Star.
After returning from the war, Spiro returned to his pre-war life. He married a woman named Elinor Judefind on May 27, 1942 and enrolled in the University of Baltimore School of Law, taking night classes. During the day, he worked as a salesman at an insurance company. In 1947, he earned his bachelor's degree in law and he passed the state bar examination in 1949.
Although Spiro's parents were both Democrats, he decided to become a Republican. His first political work involved helping in James Devereux's political campaigns during the 1950s. On 1957, Spiro was appointed a member of the Baltimore County Board of Appeals by Michael Birmingham, the Baltimore County Executive.
In 1960, Spiro decided to run for a position as a Circuit Court Judge. However, he received the least votes out of the five candidates. In 1961, Spiro was dismissed from the Baltimore County Zoning Board, an act that Spiro protested vocally. Despite this failures, Spiro again ran for elections in 1962, this time as a candidate for the Baltimore County Executive position. He managed to win the position, partially due to a split in the Democratic Party. After taking office, Spiro helped to pass a county ordinance that banned discrimination in certain public events, such as television programs.
In 1966, Spiro decided to run for Governor of Maryland. He managed to win the position despite being a Republican in a Democratic state with a margin of 82,000. His victory was attributed to his anti-discrimination stance, since his Democratic opponent was opposed to integration of races.
During his term as governor, Spiro passed numerous reforms regarding taxation and the judicial system. He also worked to make pollution laws tougher to protect the environment. He also foresaw the passing of a law that made discrimination in housing illegal and helped to repeal a law that forebade the romantic interaction of people from separate races.
In 1968, Spiro was chosen to run alongside Richard Nixon as the vice presidential candidate. The pair managed to win and Spiro achieved the highest-ever political ranking for a Greek American in United States history. His quick rise through the political ranks was also regarded as remarkable.
Spiro quickly became Richard Nixon's defensive representative, spending much of his time supporting the Vietnam War through television broadcasts and speeches. He sharply criticized anti-war protesters in particular, using bizarre rhetoric such as "effete corps of impudent snobs", "pusillanimous pussyfoots", and "nattering nabobs of negativism".
On October 10, 1973, Spiro resigned from his position as Vice President in the face of a bribery scandal. He was the second person in history to do so (preceded by John C. Calhoun) and he subsequently plead guilty to charges of tax evasion and money laundering. He had accepted about $30,000 in bribes while governor of Maryland, but he was let off on three years of probation with a fine of $10,000.
The scandal did not end there, however, since a group of persistent students from The George Washington University Law School known as "Banzhaf's Bandits" continued to sue him. They claimed that he had accepted at least $268,482 in bribes while governor and they sought to have him give this money to Maryland. Agnew was again found guilty and finally paid the state the money after two appeals. The State of Maryland's Bar Association subsequently disbarred him, preventing him from practicing law. The scandal also ruined his hopes for running as a presidential candidate in 1976 as a successor to Richard Nixon.
Afterward, Spiro remained a fairly quiet figure, working as a trade executive. In 1976, he was criticized for speaking out against the United States' support of Israel. In 1980, he published a memoir about his vice presidency and the scandal, revealing that he had been told to "go quietly...or else". On September 17, 1996, Spiro died from leukemia and was buried in Timonium, Maryland.