Philip Noel

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Philip Noel
RI Governor Philip W. Noel.jpg
68th Governor of Rhode Island
In office
January 2, 1973 – January 4, 1977
LieutenantJ. Joseph Garrahy
Preceded byFrank Licht
Succeeded byJ. Joseph Garrahy
Personal details
Philip William Noel

(1931-06-06) June 6, 1931 (age 90)
Warwick, Rhode Island, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
(m. 1956; died 2019)
EducationBrown University (BA)
Georgetown University (JD)

Philip William Noel (born June 6, 1931) is an American politician and lawyer who served as the 68th Governor of Rhode Island. He was elected in 1972, and re-elected in 1974.

Personal life[edit]

Philip Noel was born in Warwick, Rhode Island. His parents were Joe Noel, an auto mechanic, and Emma Crudeli Noel, a jewelry worker. He attended public schools in Warwick. He was a class president at Samuel Gorton High School, and was named to Rhode Island's All-State football team during his time there.

Noel took his first job at age 15, working as a commercial fisherman.[1] Noel later accepted a football scholarship to Georgetown University. He transferred to Brown University when Georgetown dropped its football program.[2] He received a degree in Economics from Brown in 1954, then returned to Georgetown University to study Law, with the goal of joining the FBI. While still in school, he obtained a job from Democratic Rhode Island Senator John O. Pastore in the Senate post office.

After receiving his Law degree, Noel began his professional career as a solo practitioner, with law offices in Providence and Warwick.

Noel married Joyce Anne Sandberg on October 20, 1956.[3] Sandberg was Miss Rhode Island for 1953 and participated in the 1953 Miss America pageant. She was also Miss Rhode Island USA for 1954 and participated in the 1954 Miss USA pageant.[4] They had five children.

Political career[edit]

Encouraged by Senator Pastore, Noel ran for the Warwick city council in 1958. He lost his first campaign, but was elected in 1960, and served three terms. In 1966 he was elected Mayor of Warwick, serving from 1967 to 1973 (three terms). In 1972 he mounted a successful campaign to become Governor of Rhode Island. Senator Pastore announced his retirement from the Senate in late 1975. In January 1976, Noel announced a bid for the Democratic nomination to succeed Pastore.

As governor, Noel sponsored legislation creating the Rhode Island Port Authority with power to take control over Quonset Point, Davisville, and other relinquished U.S. military property. He established the Rhode Island Department of Economic Development. He sponsored legislation which established the Rhode Island Housing and Mortgage Finance Corporation (RIHMFC).

Noel was tasked by President Nixon to travel to China on a diplomatic mission. President Ford appointed Noel to the US Commission on Intergovernmental Relations.

In 1976 Noel was the Acting Chairman of the Platform Committee for that year's Democratic National Convention. He was also the Chairman of the Democratic Governors' Conference.

After an unsuccessful bid for a U.S. Senate seat in 1976, Phil resumed the practice of law in Providence and Washington, became a successful real estate developer, and founded several start-up companies in the petroleum industry, most of them based in Louisiana. In his sunset years, Noel remained active in various business enterprises including a Warwick marina and country club.


In early 1976 Noel was criticized for remarks he made characterizing the conditions of poverty in a "black ghetto". In May he stepped down as chair of the Democratic National Convention's Platform Committee as a response to the controversy over his remarks. Later the same month, he survived a helicopter crash on the University of Rhode Island campus. Noel narrowly lost the September primary election to automobile dealer Richard Lorber. Lorber lost the general election to former United States Secretary of the Navy John Chafee.

Post-political life[edit]

After he completed his term as governor, Noel returned to his law practice.

Noel and his wife lived in semi-retirement in Estero, Florida.[1] He no longer takes clients, but still does legal work for his family's various companies, including commercial real estate and a rice farm in Louisiana.[1] Noel spends about half the year in Florida and half in Warwick, where he owns a marina and country club.[1] He has three great-grandchildren.[1]

In 2011, Noel was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame.[5]

His wife, former Rhode Island First Lady Joyce Anne Noel, died on February 13, 2019.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e Parker, Paul Edward (March 3, 2018). "Where Are They Now?: Former R.I Gov. Noel is never far from fishing". The Providence Journal. Retrieved March 8, 2018.
  2. ^ At Brown University Noel was named to the school's All-Decade football team.
  3. ^ "Joyce Anne Noel". Warwick Beacon. February 19, 2019. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
  4. ^ a b Miller, G. Wayne (February 15, 2019). "Former R.I. First Lady Joyce Anne Noel has died". Providence Journal. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
  5. ^ RI Heritage Hall of Fame, Inductees. Accessed 7 August 2012
Party political offices
Preceded by
Frank Licht
Democratic nominee for Governor of Rhode Island
1972, 1974
Succeeded by
J. Joseph Garrahy
Preceded by
Wendell Anderson
Chair of the Democratic Governors Association
Succeeded by
Reubin Askew
Political offices
Preceded by
Frank Licht
Governor of Rhode Island
Succeeded by
J. Joseph Garrahy