Joseph A. Gavagan
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 served at: Fort Totten, New York; Camp Alfred Vail, New Jersey; and Camp Gordon Johnston, Florida. 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. 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.
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.
Death and burial
He maintained a summer house in Manchester, Vermont, and died at Putnam Memorial Hospital in Bennington, Vermont on October 18, 1968. Interment was at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, New York.
In November 1933, Gavagan married Dorothy Whitehead, who had been his secretary in his Washington Congressional office. They were the parents of a son, Joseph Jr., and a daughter, Joan, who was the wife of Thomas G. Gorman.
- United States Congress. "Joseph A. Gavagan (id: G000101)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
- Joseph A. Gavagan at Find a Grave
- "Miss Gavagan Bride". Troy Record. Troy, NY. August 12, 1957. p. 12. (Subscription required (. ))
- "Funeral: Justice Joseph Gavagan". Bennington Banner. Bennington, VT. October 22, 1968. p. 3.
- "New York, Abstracts of World War I Military Service, 1917-1919 for Joseph A. Gavagan". Ancestry.com. Provo, UT: Ancestry.com, LLC. Retrieved February 16, 2017. (Subscription required (. ))
|New York Assembly|
Michael E. Reiburn
|New York State Assembly
New York County, 22nd District
Benjamin B. Mittler
|United States House of Representatives|
Royal H. Weller
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 21st congressional district
James H. Torrens