Charles D. Ferris

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Charles Ferris
Charles D Ferris.jpg
Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission
In office
October 17, 1977 – February 4, 1981
PresidentJimmy Carter
Ronald Reagan
Preceded byRichard Wiley
Succeeded byRobert Lee
Personal details
BornCharles Daniel Ferris
(1933-04-09) April 9, 1933 (age 85)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Patricia Catherine Brennan
ResidenceChevy Chase, Maryland
Alma materBoston College (BA, JD)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Service/branchUnited States Navy
Years of service1955–1960
RankLieutenant (junior grade)
UnitUSS Brinkley Bass

Charles Daniel Ferris (born April 9, 1933) is an American attorney and former government official. A longtime staffer for Majority Leader Mike Mansfield on the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, he played a key role in the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Voting Rights Act of 1965, and Lyndon Johnson's Great Society legislation.

Following Mansfield's retirement, Ferris briefly worked for House Speaker Tip O'Neill before being nominated by President Jimmy Carter to chair the Federal Communications Commission in 1977. He would serve for the remainder of Carter's term.[1] During his tenure, the agency initiated a program of nationwide telecommunications deregulation, which was later continued during the Reagan administration.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Ferris was born in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts to Henry Joseph and Mildred Mary (née MacDonald) Ferris.[3][4] His father worked for Boston's metropolitan transit authority and his mother as a telegrapher for Western Union.[5] He attended Boston College High School and Boston College, leaving the latter in 1954 with a Bachelor of Arts in physics.[5] Upon graduation, he was hired by Sperry Corporation as a research physicist.

Faced with the prospect of being drafted into the United States Army, Ferris applied for Navy officer candidate school in 1954 and entered active service the following year.[5] Eventually he would attain the rank of lieutenant (junior grade) and be made chief engineer on the destroyer USS Brinkley Bass (DD-887).[6][5] From 1958 to 1960 he was on assignment as an assistant professor of naval science at Harvard University, teaching celestial navigation and marine engineering to Reserve Officers' Training Corps cadets. At night, Ferris attended Boston College Law School, receiving his law degree in 1961.

Legal career[edit]

Justice Department[edit]

Legislative work[edit]

Federal Communications Commission[edit]

While most scholars look the term of Reagan appointee Mark S. Fowler as the beginning of telecommunications deregulation, deregulation actually began with Ferris. The most significant effect Ferris had on the FCC was shifting the Commission's reasoning from legal and technical to an economic one.[2]

Private practice[edit]

Personal life[edit]


  1. ^ "Commissioners from 1934 to Present". Federal Communications Commission. June 5, 2013. Retrieved May 11, 2017.
  2. ^ a b Jung, Donald (1993). The Federal Communications Commission, the Broadcast Industry, and the Fairness Doctrine 1981-1987. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
  3. ^ Bird, David (May 9, 1979). "Regulation Foe Atop the F.C.C." The New York Times. Retrieved August 29, 2018.
  4. ^ "Charles D. Ferris, Esq". Marquis Who's Who. Retrieved August 29, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d "Charles D. Ferris, Staff Director, Democratic Policy Committee, 1963-1977, Oral History Interview #1" (PDF). United States Senate Historical Office. April 5, 2004. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  6. ^ Marks, Fred (August 20, 2018). "Charles D. Ferris Presented with the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award by Marquis Who's Who". Retrieved August 30, 2018.

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Richard E. Wiley
Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission
Succeeded by
Robert E. Lee