John Volpe

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John Volpe
John Volpe (1970).jpg
United States Ambassador to Italy
In office
March 6, 1973 – January 24, 1977
PresidentRichard Nixon
Gerald Ford
Jimmy Carter
Preceded byGraham Martin
Succeeded byRichard N. Gardner
2nd United States Secretary of Transportation
In office
January 22, 1969 – February 2, 1973
PresidentRichard Nixon
Preceded byAlan Boyd
Succeeded byClaude Brinegar
Chair of the National Governors Association
In office
October 16, 1967 – July 21, 1968
Preceded byWilliam L. Guy
Succeeded byBuford Ellington
61st and 63rd Governor of Massachusetts
In office
January 7, 1965 – January 22, 1969
LieutenantElliot Richardson
Francis W. Sargent
Preceded byEndicott Peabody
Succeeded byFrancis W. Sargent
In office
January 5, 1961 – January 3, 1963
LieutenantEdward F. McLaughlin Jr.
Preceded byFoster Furcolo
Succeeded byEndicott Peabody
Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration
In office
October 22, 1956 – February 5, 1957
PresidentDwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded byCharles Dwight Curtiss
Succeeded byBertram D. Tallamy
Massachusetts Commissioner of Public Works
In office
February 1953 – October 22, 1956
GovernorChristian Herter
Preceded byWilliam F. Callahan
Succeeded byAnthony DiNatale
Personal details
John Anthony Volpe

(1908-12-08)December 8, 1908
Wakefield, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedNovember 11, 1994(1994-11-11) (aged 85)
Nahant, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Jennie Benedetto
EducationWentworth Institute of Technology (BS)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Navy
Years of service1942–1946
UnitSeabees Instructor

John Anthony Volpe (/ˈvlpi/; December 8, 1908 – November 11, 1994) was an American diplomat, 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[edit]

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

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]

Personal life[edit]

On June 18, 1934, Volpe married Giovannina Benedetto, with whom he had two children, John Anthony, Jr. and Loretta Jean Volpe Rotondi.[citation needed] During World War II, he volunteered to serve stateside as a United States Navy Seabees training officer.[citation needed]

Early career[edit]

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[edit]

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 Peabody for the Democratic nomination for governor. Despite the Democratic landslide nationwide that year, Volpe defeated 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 education, reorganize the state's 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[edit]

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[edit]

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 tenure as Secretary of Transportation, Amtrak was created.

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

Ambassador to Italy[edit]

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[edit]

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

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.[5] Terminal E at Logan International Airport is also dedicated in his honor.


  1. ^ a b Jennifer Steinhauer (November 13, 1994). "John A. Volpe, Nixon Supporter And Massachusetts Governor, 85". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-11-11. John Anthony Volpe, a former Governor of Massachusetts, Ambassador to Italy and United States Secretary of Transportation, died on Friday night. He was 85 and lived in Nahunt, Mass. The Nahant police attributed his death to natural causes. ...
  2. ^ "John Volpe, The Life of An Immigrant's Son", Kathleen Kilgore, Yankee Books, 1987, pp. 19-20
  3. ^ "Biography: John A. Volpe" Archived 2012-11-22 at the Wayback Machine, US Department of Transportation
  4. ^ Lewis, Scott (April 20, 2015), "ENR Marks 50 Years of Excellence", Engineering News-Record, New York: Dodge Data & Analytics, vol. 274 no. 11, pp. 42–56, ISSN 0891-9526
  5. ^ John A. Volpe Papers - Northeastern University Library
Party political offices
Preceded by
Charles Gibbons
Republican nominee for Governor of Massachusetts
1960, 1962, 1964, 1966
Succeeded by
Francis W. Sargent
Political offices
Preceded by
Foster Furcolo
Governor of Massachusetts
Succeeded by
Endicott Peabody
Preceded by
Endicott Peabody
Governor of Massachusetts
Succeeded by
Francis W. Sargent
Preceded by
William L. Guy
Chair of the National Governors Association
Succeeded by
Buford Ellington
Preceded by
Alan Boyd
United States Secretary of Transportation
Succeeded by
Claude Brinegar
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Graham Martin
United States Ambassador to Italy
Succeeded by
Richard N. Gardner