Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: 1969-1975
Francis Sargent trained in architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and fought as a paratrooper in the Tenth Mountain Division during the Second World War. His service as Governor in the tumultuous late sixties and early seventies spanned student shootings at Kent State, the first Earth Day, and Watergate. As a moderate Republican, he took on a debt-burdened state budget, urban neighborhoods threatened by highway construction, segregation in public schools, and the challenge of environmental protection.
From 1947 to 1963, Mr. Sargent held a series of federal and state positions of responsibility dealing with fishing and the stewardship of natural resources. In 1964, he was appointed the Commissioner of Public Works. In 1966, he was elected Lieutenant Governor, serving in that capacity until the resignation of Governor Volpe in 1969. Governor Sargent was elected in his own right to a four-year term in 1970.
When Massachusetts faced a budget crisis driven by increasing social welfare costs, Governor Sargent raised 100 million dollars in new revenues through corporate taxation, while reducing the budget by 17.5 million dollars in Medicaid expenses by restricting eligibility. He also vetoed pay raises for state employees.
Several of the Sargent administration's accomplishments were far reaching. Boston residents still remember Governor Sargent's decision to halt highway construction, which would have divided city neighborhoods. Statewide laws protecting the environment and wetlands were instituted, and Sargent advocated the introduction of no-fault auto insurance.
Governor Sargent was very much a man of his time. He ordered the flag to half-mast in recognition of the student killings at Kent State, was the keynote speaker at the first Earth Day at MIT, and sponsored legislation challenging the legality of the war in Viet Nam. He ran for a second new term, but was defeated by Michael Dukakis. Mr. Sargent retired to Cape Cod where he enjoyed the outdoors and took a more active interest in a sporting goods shop he had co-founded in Orleans.