Leverett Saltonstall

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Leverett Saltonstall (1 September 1892 - 17 June 1979)

Born in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, Saltonstall was part of what has been termed one of "the Boston Brahmin Saltonstall family," able to trace his ancestral roots to the Mayflower and the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He was the tenth generation in direct descent to graduate from Harvard, and he was the great-grandson (1783 - 1845) of a U. S. Congressman of the same name. He was a Freemason and a Unitarian.

Biography of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Governor

Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 1939-1945

As Leverett Saltonstall made his first gubernatorial bid, his opponent James Michael Curley described him as having a "Harvard accent with a South Boston face." Though intended as a jab, the mix of the common and aristocratic resonated positively with the public. As Governor, Saltonstall reduced the Commonwealth's debt by over 90%, while also instituting an overall reduction in taxes.

Curley's jab about the Harvard accent was rooted in fact. Mr. Saltonstall was after all a tenth generation Harvard graduate and a great grandson of the same-named Massachusetts Congressman. He attended preparatory school at Noble and Greenough, graduating Harvard College in 1914, and Harvard Law School in 1917. He served as a Lieutenant late in the First World War, returning to serve as a local politician and then Assistant District Attorney. He served as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives (1922-1937), rising to the rank of Speaker of the House.

During his three terms, Governor Saltonstall mediated a teamsters strike, reduced taxes, and retired a majority of the state's debt. He was elected President of the National Governors' Association (1943-1944). Saltonstall founded the Interfaith Committee Against Discrimination and led public activities to help the disabled and financially disadvantaged. As a Republican, he was elected to the U.S. Senate by a large margin even in the predominantly Democratic city of Boston. Over the next two decades he would be known on the Senate floor as "the gentlemanly gentleman from Massachusetts." He would serve as Party Whip and be the ranking minority leader on five influential Senate committees, including Appropriations and Defense.

Biographical Directory of the United States Congress


SALTONSTALL, Leverett, (1892 - 1979) Senate Years of Service: 1945-1967 Party: Republican

SALTONSTALL, Leverett, (great-grandson of Leverett Saltonstall [1783-1845]), a Senator from Massachusetts; born in Chestnut Hill, Middlesex County, Mass., September 1, 1892; attended the public schools and Noble and Greenough School, Dedham, Mass.; graduated from Harvard University in 1914 and from its law school in 1917; during the First World War served in the United States Army as a first lieutenant 1917-1919; admitted to the bar in 1919, and commenced practice in Boston, Mass.; member of the board of aldermen of Newton, Mass., 1920-1922; assistant district attorney of Middlesex County, Mass., 1921-1922; member, State house of representatives 1923-1936, serving as speaker 1929-1936; unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor of Massachusetts in 1936; Governor of Massachusetts 1939-1945; chairman of the National Governors’ Conference in 1944; elected as a Republican to the United States Senate, November 7, 1944, to fill the vacancy in the term ending January 3, 1949, caused by the resignation of Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., but did not assume office until January 4, 1945, after completion of his term as Governor; reelected in 1948, 1954 and 1960 and served from January 4, 1945, to January 3, 1967; was not a candidate for reelection in 1966; Republican whip 1949-1957; chairman, Committee on Armed Services (Eighty-third Congress), Republican Conference (Eighty-fifth through Eighty-ninth Congress); trustee and director of several mutual investment funds and charities; resided in Dover, Mass., where he died June 17, 1979; interment in Harmony Grove Cemetery, Salem, Mass.

Bibliography American National Biography; Saltonstall, Leverett. Salty: Recollections of a Yankee in Politics. Boston: Boston Globe, 1976; U.S. Congress. Tributes to the Honorable Leverett Saltonstall. 89th Cong., 2d sess., 1966. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1966

Final Years


Saltonstall, a life-long Unitarian who attended Sunday School and then church with his parents throughout his childhood, died in Dover, Massachusetts. His interment is in Harmony Grove Cemetery, Salem, Massachusetts.