Joseph A. Gavagan

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Joseph A. Gavagan, Congressman from New York. 1939.

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

Early life[edit]

Born in New York City on August 20, 1892, he attended the public and parochial schools and graduated from the law department of Fordham University in 1920.[1]

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.[2] He served at: Fort Totten, New York; Camp Alfred Vail, New Jersey; and Camp Gordon Johnston, Florida.[2] He was a first lieutenant in the Quartermaster Reserve Corps from 1920 to 1925.

Gavagan was admitted to the bar in 1920, and practiced law in New York City.[1] A Democrat, he was a member of the New York State Assembly (New York Co., 22nd D.) in 1923, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927, 1928 and 1929.[1]

Congressman[edit]

Gavagan was elected 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. 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).

Gavagan tried for years to pass an anti-lynching law; having grown up in New York's Hell's Kitchen, he saw discrimination against the Irish, African Americans, and other ethnic and racial minorities. Gavagan's argument for equal and fair treatment was that lynching meant mob rule, and mob rule meant that the rule of law was not respected. The Gavagan bill was never passed because conservatives, mostly southern Democrats, were able to block it. From the 1960s to the 1980s, Claude Pepper served as a Congressman; he had been a United States Senator in the 1930s and 1940s. As an elder statesman in the House, Pepper admitted that the major regret of his career was that he had supported the Gavagan Anti-Lynching Law.

Later life[edit]

Gavagan was resigned from Congress after winning election as a justice of the New York Supreme Court; he was re-elected in 1957, and was scheduled to retire on December 31, 1968.[1]

Death and burial[edit]

He maintained a summer house in Manchester, Vermont, and died at Putnam Memorial Hospital in Bennington, Vermont on October 18, 1968.[1] Interment was at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, New York.[1]

Family[edit]

In November 1933, Gavagan married Dorothy Whitehead, who had been his secretary in his Washington Congressional office.[1] They were the parents of a son, Joseph Jr., and a daughter, Joan, who was the wife of Thomas G. Gorman.[1][3]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Sources[edit]

Newspapers[edit]

Internet[edit]

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

1923–1929
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

1929–1943
Succeeded by
James H. Torrens