John Heinz was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on 23rd October, 1938. His father, H. J. Heinz, was chairman of the H. J. Heinz Company, the food processing corporation founded by his grandfather in 1869. After his parents divorced he was brought up by his mother, Joan Diehl and his stepfather, Monty McCauley.
Heinz was educated at Phillips Exeter Academy and Yale University. Following graduation in 1960 he piloted a single engine plane on a trip through Africa and the Middle East. On his return he entered Harvard Business School and in 1962 began work with the Union Bank of Switzerland in Geneva. While in Geneva he met his future wife, Teresa Simoes Ferreira.
In 1963 Heinz joined the U.S. Air Force Reserve and between June to December he was on active duty at the Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. He then joined the 911th Troop Carrier Group based in Pittsburgh.
Heinz was an active member of the Republican Party and became special assistant to Hugh Scott (March to December, 1964). At this time Scott was involved with John Williams in investigating the Bobby Baker scandal. Lyndon B. Johnson attempted to stop Scott by threatening disclosures about his relationship with lobbyist, Claude Wilde. Johnson also told Scott that he would use his influence to "close down the Philadelphia Navy Yard unless Senator Scott closed his critical mouth".
In 1965 Heinz began work with the financial and marketing divisions of the H. J. Heinz Company. He left the company in 1970 and taught at the Graduate School of Industrial Administration at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He left this post when he became the Republican Representative from Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District.
Heinz, the youngest member of the 92nd Congress, soon became one of its most progressive figures. He called on President Richard Nixon to normalize relations with Cuba. He also criticised the administration for deploying new weapons as a tactic in arms limitations talks with the Soviet Union. He also supported a number of liberal social programs in education, human welfare, health care and housing.
After winning reelection in 1974 he was appointed to the Commerce Committee's Energy and Power Subcommittee and the Public Health and Environment Subcommittee. He also served as chairman of the House Republican Task Force on Antitrust and Regulatory Reform (1974-1976).
In 1976 Heinz attempted to replace Hugh Scott as member of the Senate. His main opponent was Arlen Specter. During the campaign it was revealed that Heinz had accepted $6,000 in illegal corporate campaign money from Gulf Oil. Despite this setback, Heinz defeated Specter in the primary and went on to win victory over William J. Green III in November, 1976.
Heinz was a member of the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. In 1981 he was appointed as chairman of the Special Committee on Aging. In 1983 President George Bush appointed him to the National Commission on Health Care Reform. Heinz was also the leader of attempts to extend Medicare insurance.
Heinz also became one of the first members of Congress to call for legislation to protect the environment. In 1989 Heinz was a founder member of GLOBE (Global Legislators Organisation for a Balanced Environment). He was instrumental in getting the Clean Air Act passed by the Senate in 1990.
On 4th April, 1991, Heinz flew to Philadelphia to conduct the first in a series of investigative hearings to examine the telemarketing of medical equipment to Medicare beneficiaries. His Piper Aerostar PA60, carrying him and four other adults developed landing-gear trouble, a helicopter was dispatched to examine the problem. The helicopter's blades accidentally hit the bottom of the plane. Both aircraft crashed to the ground killing everyone on board.