Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Heinz graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1956 and Yale University in 1960. He received an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1963. Then, Heinz served in the United States Air Force (1963) and United States Air Force Reserve (1963-1969).
From 1970 to 1971, Heinz was a member of the faculty at the Graduate School of Industrial Administration at the Carnegie-Mellon University. His career as a businessman included positions as analyst, controller's division, and numerous positions in the marketing division of the H.J. Heinz Company.
In 1971, he was elected by special election to fill in the vacancy caused by the death of Robert J. Corbett Ninety-second Congress. He was reelected to the Ninety-third and Ninety-fourth Congresses. He was elected to the Senate in 1976 and reelected in 1982 and 1988.
Heinz's work was focused on retirement and the elderly, health care, international trade, finance and banking, environmental issues, human development and education. He was chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee (Ninety-sixth and Ninety-ninth Congresses) and a member of the Special Committee on Aging (Ninety-seventh through Ninety-ninth Congresses).
Heinz and six other people were killed when a Bell 412 SP helicopter collided with the Senator's Piper Aerostar plane over a schoolyard in Merion, Pennsylvania. All aboard the two aircraft and two children playing outside the school were killed. The helicopter had been dispatched to check out a problem Heinz's plane was having with its landing gear. While moving in for a closer look, the helicopter's rotor blades struck the bottom of the plane, causing both aircraft to lose control and crash. He was interned in the Heinz family mausoleum in Homewood Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
His widow, Teresa Heinz, is married to Senator John Kerry.
Several institutions bear his name. Including
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In the testing process of life, there is a certain inevitability about the discoveries of your abilities and needs, what you want to take from this life and give to others. … Each of us has a duty to examine the problems and participate actively in the decision making. Today's challenges will require addressing complex problems and making difficult and sometimes painful choices. Complex, difficult, painful - but not impossible."