Leverett Saltonstall
Painting: by Leopold Seyffert, 1947

Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: 1939-1945

As Leverett Saltonstall made his first gubernatorial bid, his opponent James Michael Curley described him as having a "Harvard accent with a South Boston face." Though intended as a jab, the mix of the common and aristocratic resonated positively with the public. As Governor, Saltonstall reduced the Commonwealth's debt by over 90%, while also instituting an overall reduction in taxes.

Curley's jab about the Harvard accent was rooted in fact. Mr. Saltonstall was after all a tenth generation Harvard graduate and a great grandson of the same-named Massachusetts Congressman. He attended preparatory school at Noble and Greenough, graduating Harvard College in 1914, and Harvard Law School in 1917. He served as a Lieutenant late in the First World War, returning to serve as a local politician and then Assistant District Attorney. He served as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives (1922-1937), rising to the rank of Speaker of the House.

During his three terms, Governor Saltonstall mediated a teamsters strike, reduced taxes, and retired a majority of the state's debt. He was elected President of the National Governors' Association (1943-1944). Saltonstall founded the Interfaith Committee Against Discrimination and led public activities to help the disabled and financially disadvantaged. As a Republican, he was elected to the U.S. Senate by a large margin even in the predominantly Democratic city of Boston. Over the next two decades he would be known on the Senate floor as "the gentlemanly gentleman from Massachusetts." He would serve as Party Whip and be the ranking minority leader on five influential Senate committees, including Appropriations and Defense.