Former Mint Director Donna Pope, 91, dies
- Published: Jul 6, 2023, 11 AM
Donna Pope — who served two consecutive five-year terms as the 33rd director of the United States Mint and oversaw the implementation of the gold and silver American Eagle bullion coin programs — died June 23 at her Colorado home at the age of 91.
An Ohio native, Mrs. Pope served her first term as Mint director beginning in July 1981 after being nominated by President Ronald Reagan and approved by the full Senate. She was nominated for a second term by Reagan.
According to Michael Brown, Mrs. Pope’s former special assistant, she was an unwavering champion of Reagan.
Before receiving President Reagan’s presidential appointment, Mrs. Pope served five two-year terms as a member of the Ohio House of Representatives, representing the then 12th District, from Parma.
As a Republican representative in a Democratic stronghold, Pope won re-election consistently by large margins, eventually rising to become minority whip.
During the 1980 presidential campaign, Mrs. Pope served as co-chairperson of the Reagan for President Committee in Ohio.
Mrs. Pope started her political career as a supervisor at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections in Ohio.
During her tenure as U.S. Mint director, Mrs. Pope served under three Treasury secretaries — Donald T. Regan, James A. Baker III and Nicholas F. Brady.
According to Brown, she regularly took on inter-departmental projects for the White House and was a regular on the administration’s surrogate speaker circuit.
As Mint director, Mrs. Pope oversaw the renewal of modern U.S. commemorative coins, starting with the George Washington 250th Birth Anniversary silver half dollars in Proof and Uncirculated versions in 1982.
Additional U.S. commemorative coin programs went forward under Mrs. Pope’s purview:
➤ 1983 and 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympic coins, which raised tens of millions of dollars in surcharges for the staging of the Summer Olympics on U.S. soil.
➤ 1986 Statue of Liberty Centennial Coin Program, which included the first gold $5 coin to be struck by the U.S. Mint in 50 years, and which raised millions of dollars in surcharges for the restoration and preservation of the Statue of Liberty monument.
➤ 1987 U.S. Constitution Bicentennial coins.
➤ 1988 Seoul Olympics commemoratives.
➤ 1989 Bicentennial of the U.S. Congress coins, which witnessed the first production of the commemorative coins outside a Mint facility, in the east parking lot of the U.S. Capitol on seven-ton coin presses hauled from the Philadelphia Mint on lowboy trailers.
➤ 1990 Eisenhower Centennial silver dollar, including the first silver dollar struck at the West Point Mint.
➤ 1991 Mount Rushmore Golden Anniversary commemorative coins.
➤ 1991 Korean War Memorial silver dollar.
➤ 1991 United Service Organizations silver dollar.
In 1988, Mrs. Pope oversaw the conversion of the West Point Silver Bullion Depository to full Mint status as a production branch of the U.S. Mint and the return of the San Francisco Mint to full Mint status from an assay office.
Mrs. Pope also oversaw the production and marketing for the American Arts Gold Medallion program, which between 1980 and 1984 offered half-ounce and 1-ounce .900 fine gold medals issued to compete with South Africa’s Krugerrand .917 fine gold bullion coin.
Mrs. Pope was also instrumental in the introduction in 1986 of the bullion and Proof American Eagle gold and silver coin issues, beginning two series that are still being executed by the U.S. Mint.
The American Eagle gold $50 coin quickly supplanted the South African Krugerrand as the world’s leading gold investment coin.
Testify to change designs
In 1988, Mrs. Pope testified at a Senate Banking Committee hearing on U.S. coinage designs. According to news coverage by then Coin World Editor Beth Deisher, who also testified at the hearing, Mrs. Pope initially espoused the view that the presidential portraits on the nation’s coins were “time honored” and need not be changed. Later she pivoted to state, “Treasury would have no objection” if Congress chose to change the designs.
After leaving the directorship of the U.S. Mint in August 1991, Mrs. Pope served as the director of U.S. Market Activities for the International Olympic Committee’s Centennial Coin Program.
Mrs. Pope returned to Ohio and served in several executive posts in the Ohio administration of Gov. George Voinovich, before retiring to Colorado.
She is preceded in death by her husband, Raymond Pope, a police detective for the City of Cleveland, and her daughter Candice Wooley.
Mrs. Pope is survived by her daughter, Cherie Pope-Eagen and four grandchildren, Alex Wooley, Ryker Eagen, Dillon Eagen, and Nathan Eagen. Mrs. Pope will be buried in a private memorial service in Ohio.
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