Joseph A. Gavagan

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Joseph Andrew Gavagan (August 20, 1892 - October 18, 1968) was a United States Representative from New York.


Born in New York City, he attended the public and parochial schools and graduated from the law department of Fordham University in 1920. During World War I, he enlisted as a private and later was promoted to second lieutenant in the Quartermaster Corps and served from August 20, 1917 to October 13, 1919. He was a first lieutenant in the Quartermaster Reserve Corps from 1920 to 1925. He was admitted to the bar in 1920, and practiced law in New York City.

He was a member of the New York State Assembly (New York Co., 22nd D.) in 1923, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927, 1928 and 1929.

Gavagan was elected as a Democrat to the 71st United States Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Royal H. Weller; he was re-elected to the 72nd and to the six succeeding Congresses and held office from November 5, 1929, to December 30, 1943, when he resigned, having been elected a justice of the New York Supreme Court. While in the House of Representatives, he was chairman of the Committee on Elections No. 2 (Seventy-second through Seventy-sixth Congresses) and Committee on War Claims (Seventy-seventh and Seventy-eighth Congresses). However, his main thrust was trying to pass his Anti-Lynching law. Having grown up in New York's Hell's Kitchen, he saw not only the discrimination in the city against the Irish, but the horrible way that Blacks were treated. He spent his entire time in Congress attempting to convince his fellow members that there was something simply wrong that a mob could control the law. His bill was never passed because Claude Pepper, J. William Fulbright and the other Southern Congressman were able to block it. Pepper, in his later years, as the guardian of the elderly, admitted his one regret was that he voted against the Gavagan Anti-Lynching Law.

Gavagan was re-elected in 1957 to a second term, and was scheduled to retire on December 31, 1968. He maintained a summer house in Manchester, Vermont, and died at Putnam Memorial Hospital in Bennington, Vermont on October 18, 1968. Interment was in Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Hawthorne, New York.[1]


  1. ^ "Funeral: Justice Joseph Gavagan". Bennington Banner. October 22, 1968. p. 3. 

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New York Assembly
Preceded by
Michael E. Reiburn
New York State Assembly
New York County, 22nd District

Succeeded by
Benjamin B. Mittler
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Royal H. Weller
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 21st congressional district

Succeeded by
James H. Torrens