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John A. Volpe

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Title: John A. Volpe  
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Subject: Governor of Massachusetts, Endicott Peabody, Massachusetts gubernatorial election, 1960, Francis W. Sargent, Foster Furcolo
Collection: 1908 Births, 1994 Deaths, Ambassadors of the United States to Italy, American Anti-Communists, American Military Personnel of Italian Descent, American Military Personnel of World War II, American People of Italian Descent, Burials in Massachusetts, Governors of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Republicans, Nixon Administration Cabinet Members, People from Malden, Massachusetts, People from Wakefield, Massachusetts, Politicians from Malden, Massachusetts, Republican Party State Governors of the United States, State Cabinet Secretaries of Massachusetts, United States Navy Officers, United States Presidential Candidates, 1968, United States Secretaries of Transportation, Wentworth Institute of Technology Alumni
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John A. Volpe

John A. Volpe
Volpe as Transportation Secretary
United States Ambassador to Italy
In office
March 6, 1973 – January 24, 1977
President Richard Nixon
Gerald Ford
Jimmy Carter
Preceded by Graham Martin
Succeeded by Richard N. Gardner
2nd United States Secretary of Transportation
In office
January 22, 1969 – February 2, 1973
President Richard M. Nixon
Preceded by Alan S. Boyd
Succeeded by Claude S. Brinegar
61st and 63rd Governor of Massachusetts
In office
January 7, 1965 – January 22, 1969
Lieutenant Elliot Richardson
Francis W. Sargent
Preceded by Endicott Peabody
Succeeded by Francis W. Sargent
In office
January 5, 1961 – January 3, 1963
Lieutenant Edward F. McLaughlin, Jr.
Preceded by Foster Furcolo
Succeeded by Endicott Peabody
Personal details
Born John Anthony Volpe
(1908-12-08)December 8, 1908
Wakefield, Massachusetts, United States
Died November 11, 1994(1994-11-11) (aged 85)
Nahant, Massachusetts, United States
Resting place Forest Glade Cemetery, Wakefield, Massachusetts, United States
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Jennie Volpe
Children John Anthony Volpe Jr.
Loretta Jean Volpe Rotondi
Residence Wakefield, Massachusetts, United States
Alma mater Wentworth Institute of Technology
Profession Politician
Religion Roman Catholic
Military service
Service/branch United States Navy
Unit Seabees Instructor

John Anthony Volpe (; December 8, 1908 – November 11, 1994) was an American politician and member of the Republican Party who served as the 61st and 63rd Governor of Massachusetts from 1961 to 1963 and 1965 to 1969, as the United States Secretary of Transportation from 1969 to 1973 and as the United States Ambassador to Italy from 1973 to 1977.[1]


  • Early life and education 1
  • Early career 2
  • Governor of Massachusetts 3
  • Presidential campaign 4
  • Secretary of Transportation 5
  • Ambassador to Italy 6
  • Death and legacy 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Early life and education

Volpe was born on December 8, 1908 in Wakefield, Massachusetts.[2] He was the son of Italian immigrants Vito and Filomena (Benedetto), who had come from Abruzzo to Boston's North End on the SS Canopic in 1905; his father was in the construction business.

Volpe attended the Wentworth Institute (later known as the Wentworth Institute of Technology) in Boston where he majored in architectural construction and entered the construction business, building his own firm in 1930.[3] On June 18, 1934, Volpe married the former Giovaninna Benedetto known as Jennie, with whom he had two children, (John Anthony, Jr. and Loretta Jean Volpe Rotondi).

During World War II, he volunteered to serve stateside as a United States Navy Seabees training officer.

Early career

In 1953, he was appointed as the Massachusetts Commissioner of Public Works, and in 1956 he was appointed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower as the first administrator of the Federal Highway Administration.

Governor of Massachusetts

In 1960, Volpe was elected Governor of Massachusetts, defeating Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth Joseph D. Ward. He served as Governor from 1961 to 1963. In 1962, Volpe was narrowly defeated for reelection, losing to former Governor's Councillor Endicott Peabody. Peabody had been a close friend of then President John F. Kennedy. In 1964, Volpe ran again for Governor and was able to capitalize on fratricide within the Massachusetts Democratic Party when then Lieutenant Governor Francis X. Bellotti defeated Governor Endicott Peabody for the Democratic nomination for Governor. Despite the Democratic landslide nationwide that year, Volpe was able to defeat Bellotti in a close race. In 1966, Volpe was elected to the first four-year term in Massachusetts history, defeating former Massachusetts Attorney General Edward J. McCormack, Jr.

During his administration, Governor Volpe signed legislation to ban racial imbalances in Board of Education, liberalize birth control laws, and increase public housing for low-income families. Governor Volpe also raised revenues by his long, and ultimately successful, fight to institute a three percent state sales tax. He served as President of the National Governors Association from 1967 to 1968.

Presidential campaign

In 1968, Governor Volpe ran unsuccessfully as a "Favorite son" candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. He was defeated in the state presidential primary by a spontaneous write-in campaign for New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller. It was widely believed that he was hoping to be chosen as his party's candidate for Vice President.

Secretary of Transportation

Following the election of President Richard M. Nixon, Volpe was named Secretary of Transportation. He resigned as Governor to assume the cabinet post, and served in that position from 1969 to 1973. During his administration as Secretary of Transportation, Amtrak was created.

Volpe was the first to serve in this role following the position becoming a Cabinet-level appointment. Volpe received the Award of Excellence in 1970 from Engineering News-Record for his service as the Secretary of Transportation.[4]

Ambassador to Italy

In 1973, Volpe was nominated by President Nixon and confirmed by the United States Senate as United States Ambassador to Italy, a position he held until 1977.

Death and legacy

Volpe died in Nahant, Massachusetts on November 11, 1994, at the age of 85.[1] Volpe was buried at the Forest Glade Cemetery in Wakefield, Massachusetts.[5]

The John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge was named in his memory, as well as the Governor John A. Volpe Library at Wakefield High School in Wakefield. The papers of John A. Volpe are in the Archives and Special Collections of the Northeastern University Libraries, in Boston.[6]


  1. ^ a b Jennifer Steinhauer (November 13, 1994). "John A. Volpe, Nixon Supporter And Massachusetts Governor, 85".  
  2. ^ "John Volpe, The Life of An Immigrant's Son", Kathleen Kilgore, Yankee Books, 1987, pages 19-20
  3. ^ "Biography: John A. Volpe", US Department of Transportation
  4. ^ Lewis, Scott (April 20, 2015), "ENR Marks 50 Years of Excellence",  
  5. ^ John Anthony Volpe at Find a Grave
  6. ^ John A. Volpe Papers - Northeastern University Library

External links

  • Official Commonwealth of Massachusetts Governor Biography
Political offices
Preceded by
New Office
Federal Highway Administrator
October, 1956 – February, 1957
Succeeded by
Bertram Dalley Tallamy
Preceded by
Foster Furcolo
Governor of Massachusetts
January 5, 1961 – January 3, 1963
Succeeded by
Endicott Peabody
Preceded by
Endicott Peabody
Governor of Massachusetts
January 7, 1965 – January 22, 1969
Succeeded by
Francis W. Sargent
as Acting Governor, 1969-1971
as Governor, 1971-1975
Preceded by
Alan S. Boyd
U.S. Secretary of Transportation
Served under: Richard Nixon

January 22, 1969 – February 2, 1973
Succeeded by
Claude S. Brinegar
Preceded by
Graham Martin
United States Ambassador to Italy
March 6, 1973 – January 24, 1977
Succeeded by
Richard N. Gardner
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