John Anthony Volpe
Painting: Pietro Annigoni, 1963

Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: 1961-1963, 1965-1969

A modern Horatio Alger, John Volpe was the son of immigrants. His father was a plaster contractor. After attending two years of technical college at Wentworth Institute, Volpe started a construction business and become active in politics serving as a federal administrator, governor, cabinet secretary, and ambassador. He was Massachusetts' second Italian-American governor and the first Bay State governor to be elected to a four-year term.

After attending Wentworth Institute, where he majored in architectural construction, Mr. Volpe started a construction company serving as its President and Chairman from 1930 to 1969. He entered politics as Deputy Chairman of the Massachusetts Republican State Committee and received his first major public appointment in 1953, as Commissioner of Public Works. In 1956, President Eisenhower appointed him as the first Federal Highway Administrator, and he was elected Governor of Massachusetts in 1960, for a two-year term.

Governor Volpe advocated ethics regulations, which required legislators to disclose conflicts of interest involving companies doing business with the Commonwealth. Additionally, he called for campaign finance reporting and established the financial autonomy of the University of Massachusetts.

After losing by a narrow margin in 1962, Volpe returned to the governor's office in 1964. In 1966, Governor Volpe was re-elected - for the first four-year term in Massachusetts - by the largest margin ever accorded a Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate (over 500,000 votes). He was elected by his fellow governors as President of the National Governors Association, serving 1967-1968.

Governor Volpe signed legislation to ban racial imbalances in education, reorganized the state's Board of Education, liberalized birth control laws, and increased public housing for low-income families. Governor Volpe also raised revenues by increasing the state sales tax to three percent. Volpe resigned midterm in 1969 to accept a President Nixon's appointment to head the Department of Transportation. During his administration Amtrak was created. In 1973, President Nixon named him Ambassador to Italy.