Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: 1949-1953
Education transformed the prospects of Paul Dever's life, and as Governor he worked to extend such opportunities more broadly. He attended the Boston Latin School and worked as a shoe salesman and clerk to finance his legal education at Boston University. When he graduated with high honors in 1926, he also had high expectations. Just several years earlier his cousin from Woburn, William E. Dever had gained national prominence as the "Mayor who cleaned up Chicago."
Paul Dever began a legal practice and in 1928 he was elected a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. As a legislator he sponsored labor and welfare bills, winning reelection until he was elected the state's Attorney General. At age 31, he was the youngest Attorney General in Massachusetts' history. He quickly established himself as an advocate for "the little guy" by prosecuting stock fraud and tax evasion.
In 1940, Dever's life took an unexpected turn. He challenged the popular incumbent Governor Leverett Saltonstall, coming within a small margin creating an upset victory. As the Second World War began, Dever enlisted in the Navy. He lost the 1946 race for Lieutenant Governor, but two years later he defeated incumbent Governor Robert Bradford by a substantial margin. Governor Dever increased state aid to schools and issued an executive order to extend higher education benefits to Korean War veterans. Among his chief concerns were civil defense and resisting domestic communism. He advocated increasing old age and workers compensation insurance. Defeated in his second reelection attempt, he made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1952.