Russell A. Rourke was the 15th secretary of the Air Force.
He was born in New York City in 1931. He graduated with honors from the University of Maryland with a bachelor of arts degree in 1953, and earned a bachelor of laws degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 1959.
He was associated with the law firm of Keogh, Carey and Costello in Washington, D.C., before beginning his government career in 1960. His first government position was as administrative assistant to Republican Congressman John R. Pillion of New York and in 1965 became administrative assistant to Republican Congressman Henry P. Smith III of New York.
In 1974, Rourke was the Republican-Conservative nominee for Congress from the 36th District of New York.
Following that candidacy, he became deputy to Presidential Counselor John O. Marsh Jr. He was appointed special assistant to President Gerald R. Ford in 1976. His principal responsibilities included legislative liaison between the White House and Congress, and participating in policy and program meetings with the president, members of the Cabinet and White House senior staff. Rourke also undertook special projects assigned by President Ford, and his final responsibilities included assignment to the White House Transition Team in 1977.
Rourke then served as the administrative assistant to Republican Congressman Harold S. Sawyer of Michigan, and, in May 1981, was sworn in as assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs for the Department of Defense. In that capacity, Rourke was the principal adviser to Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger, on congressional consideration of the department's legislative program, maintaining direct liaison with the Congress, the executive office of the president and other government agencies on defense legislative matters, and overseeing the military departments congressional activities on defense matters. He was awarded the Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Medal by Secretary Weinberger for his superb service.
In July 1985, Rourke retired as a colonel from the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve after 32 years service. He served as the commanding officer of Marine Air Control Squadron 24, Quantico, Va., from 1972 to 1974. Prior to joining the Reserve, he enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1953, completing active duty as a first lieutenant after serving a tour of duty in Korea. His decorations include the Legion of Merit.