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John O. Pastore


John O. Pastore

John O. Pastore
United States Senator
from Rhode Island
In office
December 19, 1950 – December 28, 1976
Preceded by Edward L. Leahy
Succeeded by John H. Chafee
61st Governor of Rhode Island
In office
October 6, 1945 – December 19, 1950
Lieutenant John S. McKiernan
Preceded by J. Howard McGrath
Succeeded by John S. McKiernan
Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island
In office
Governor J. Howard McGrath
Preceded by Louis W. Cappelli
Succeeded by John S. McKiernan
Personal details
Born John Orlando Pastore
(1907-03-17)March 17, 1907
Providence, Rhode Island
Died July 15, 2000(2000-07-15) (aged 93)
Cranston, Rhode Island
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Elena Caito Pastore (nee Caito)

Children = 3

Profession Lawyer, Senator, Politician
Religion Roman Catholic[1]

John Orlando Pastore (March 17, 1907 – July 15, 2000) was an American lawyer and politician. A member of the Democratic Party, he served as a United States Senator from Rhode Island from 1950 to 1976. He previously served as the 61st Governor of Rhode Island from 1945 to 1950. He was the first Italian American to be elected as a governor or Senator.[2]


  • Early life and education 1
  • Early political career 2
  • Governor of Rhode Island 3
  • Senate 4
  • Notes 5

Early life and education

John Pastore was born in the Federal Hill neighborhood of Providence, Rhode Island.[2] The second of five children, he was the son of Michele and Erminia (née Asprinio) Pastore, who were Italian immigrants.[3] His father, a tailor who had moved from Potenza to the United States in 1899, died when John was nine, and his mother went to work as a seamstress to support the family.[4] She married her late husband's brother, Salvatore, who also ran a tailoring business.[3] As a child, Pastore worked delivering coats and suits for his stepfather, as an errand boy in a law office, and as a foot-press operator in a jewelry factory.[3]

Pastore graduated with honors from Classical High School in 1925, and spent a year working a $15-a-week job as a claims adjuster for the Narragansett Electric Company.[2] In 1927, he enrolled in an evening law course given by Northeastern University at the Young Men's Christian Association in Providence.[4] He received a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1931, and was admitted to the bar the following year.[5] He then established a law office in the basement of his family's home, but attracted few clients due to the Great Depression.[2]

Senator Pastore and his wife had two children, all of whom are still living. The Pastore family maintains ties with Rhode Island and some United States officials. Senator Pastore is mentioned in multiple books in reflection of the past. This includes praise of his time in office and of interactions.

Early political career

In 1934, Pastore was elected as a Democrat to the Rhode Island House of Representatives.[5] He was re-elected in 1936, and became chairman of the House Corporations Committee.[3] He served as an assistant attorney general from 1937 until 1938, when he lost that position after the Republican Party swept several statewide offices.[2] He then served as a member of the Providence Charter Revision Commission from 1939 to 1940.[5]

When the Democratic Party returned to power in 1940, Pastore was appointed assistant attorney general in charge of the criminal calendar, serving in that position until 1944.[3] In July 1941, he married Elena Caito, to whom he remained married until his death; the couple had one son and two daughters.[4]

Governor of Rhode Island

Pastore was elected Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island in 1944.[5] On October 6, 1945, he succeeded to the office of Governor of Rhode Island when Governor J. Howard McGrath resigned to become U.S. Solicitor General under President Harry S. Truman.[3] During his first year in office, he established a one-percent sales tax.[6]

In 1946, Pastore was elected to a full term as governor after defeating his Republican opponent, John G. Murphy, by a margin of 54%-46%.[5] With his victory, he became the first Italian American to be elected a governor in the United States; Charles Poletti, who served as Governor of New York in December 1942, also succeeded to office but never sought election in his own right.[2] He was re-elected in 1948, defeating Warwick mayor Albert P. Ruerat by 61%-38%.[5] During his tenure, he enacted the state's first primary election law and corporate income tax.[6] He also created a program to combat water pollution and a $20 million bonus for World War II veterans.[6] As chairman of the New England Governors' Conference, he called for a uniform nationwide unemployment insurance tax, either through "federalization of the program or some form of federal reinsurance."[3]


In 1950, Pastore was elected to the United States Senate as a Democrat in a special election to replace — once again — J. Howard McGrath, who had resigned in 1949 to become United States Attorney General (Edward L. Leahy held the office during a 16-month interim appointment). Pastore was re-elected in 1952, 1958, 1964 and 1970.

In the summer of 1964, he delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, which renominated Lyndon B. Johnson for the Presidency.

He won his final Senate race in 1970 by a 68%-32% margin over John McLaughlin, a Catholic priest who was against the Vietnam War. (McLaughlin, who later left the priesthood, would become more famous as the host of the television program The McLaughlin Group.)

In 1976 he retired, living in Cranston until his death due to kidney failure on July 15, 2000.[1]

Pastore served as the chairman of United States Senate Subcommittee on Communications. He is probably best remembered for taking part in a hearing involving a $20 million grant for the funding of PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which was proposed by Former President Lyndon Johnson. The hearing took place on May 1, 1969. President Richard Nixon had wanted to cut the proposed funding to $10 million due to all the spending during the Vietnam War, and Fred Rogers, host of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, appeared before the committee to argue for the full $20 million. In about six minutes of testimony, Rogers spoke of the need for social and emotional education that Public Television provided. Pastore was not previously familiar with Rogers' work, and was sometimes described as gruff and impatient. However, he told Rogers that the testimony had given him goose bumps, and after Rogers recited the lyrics to "What Do You Do with the Mad that You Feel?", one of the songs from his show, Pastore finally declared, "I think it's wonderful. I think it's wonderful. Looks like you just earned the $20 million."[7] The following congressional appropriation, for 1971, increased PBS funding from $9 million to $22 million.


  1. ^ The Italian American Experience: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland, 2000), p. 271.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Goldstein, Richard (2000-07-17). "John Pastore, Prominent Figure in Rhode Island Politics for Three Decades, Dies at 93".  
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Current Biography Yearbook. New York:  
  4. ^ a b c "John Pastore; Senator From Rhode Island".  
  5. ^ a b c d e f "PASTORE, John Orlando, (1907 - 2000)".  
  6. ^ a b c "Rhode Island Governor John Orlando Pastore".  
  7. ^ Fred Rogers Center: Video of Mr. Roger's testimony. Retrieved July 5,2013.
Political offices
Preceded by
Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island
Succeeded by
Preceded by
J. Howard McGrath
Governor of Rhode Island
1945 – 1950
Succeeded by
John S. McKiernan
United States Senate
Preceded by
Edward L. Leahy
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Rhode Island
Served alongside: Theodore F. Green, Claiborne Pell
Succeeded by
John H. Chafee
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