Silvio O. Conte
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 1st district
January 3, 1959 – February 8, 1991
|Preceded by||John W. Heselton|
|Succeeded by||John Olver|
|Member of the Massachusetts Senate|
November 9, 1921|
|Died||February 8, 1991
|Alma mater||Boston College|
Silvio Ottavio Conte (November 9, 1921 – February 8, 1991) was a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives for 16 terms, representing the 1st Congressional District of Massachusetts from January 3, 1959, until his death in Bethesda, Maryland in 1991. He strongly supported legislation to protect the environment, as well as federal funding of medical and scientific research.
Early life and education
Conte returned to Pittsfield and immediately turned his attention to politics. He was elected to the Massachusetts Senate in 1950, serving from 1951 to 1958.
He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1958, defeating James M. Burns, a professor at Williams College. Conte was appointed to the House Appropriations Committee, a seat that he would keep for all of his long congressional career.
Conte was effective in taking care of his district, which covered most of Western Massachusetts. He helped to win defense contracts for the General Electric plant in Pittsfield. An avid fisherman and environmentalist, he introduced legislation to bring back Atlantic salmon to the Connecticut River and worked to protect other natural resources.
He supported federal funding of research, and secured funding for a polymer research center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. As he was a passionate advocate for federal funded health research through the National Institutes of Health, the NIH continues to honor him today with grants for neurological research awarded in his name.
Conte never lost an election; he was the only member of Congress who did not have an opponent in the 1964 election. He is somewhat infamous for wearing a pig mask in a 1983 press conference, as a protest against pork barrel spending.
A member of the Republican Party, Conte was part of what was then its liberal northern tradition. Conte voted against U.S. involvement in the 1991 Gulf War. On social issues, Conte's record also reflected his Roman Catholic faith; for instance, he was opposed to abortion. He encouraged a generation of young activists whom he hired as staff. For instance, Betty Boothroyd worked for him as a legislative assistant between 1960 and 1962; she later became Speaker of the British House of Commons.
Death and burial
Congressman Conte died at age 69 of prostate cancer in Bethesda, Maryland on February 8, 1991. He is buried in St. Joseph's Cemetery in his home town of Pittsfield. More than 5,000 of his constituents waited in line in 5 °F (−15 °C) weather to attend his wake at tiny All Souls Church, his childhood church, in Pittsfield.
His funeral was attended by four U.S. Cabinet secretaries, 100 members of Congress, and the sitting Vice President of the United States, Dan Quayle. He was eulogized by long-time political friends Tip O'Neil (former U.S. Speaker of the House) and Senator Edward Kennedy.
Legacy and honors
- 1988, Conte Forum, a multi-purpose sports arena at Boston College, is named for him.
- The Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Connecticut is named for him.
- The Silvio O. Conte National Center for Polymer Research at UMass Amherst was named in his honor, as was Building 49 of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland.
- Several universities have established Silvio O. Conte Centers for neuroscience research.
- The National Archives regional center in Pittsfield is named after Conte.
- West Side Elementary School in Pittsfield was renamed Silvio O. Conte Community School after his death.
- Silvio O. Conte Middle School in North Adams, Massachusetts is named for him.
- , Library of Congress
- "New Silvio O. Conte centers address brain development disorders", NIH
- "NPR: War Vote Dogs Hillary on Campaign Trail", NPR
- , The Mail (Pittsfield)
- David Nyhan (February 9, 1991). "Silvio Conte dies at age 69". The Boston Globe. p. 1.
- New York Times obituary, 1991-02-10
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Silvio O. Conte at Find a Grave
- Mass Moments biography of Silvio O. Conte
- Tribute to a Visionary — UMass Amherst Polymer Science & Engineering Department
- Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge
|United States House of Representatives|
John W. Heselton
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 1st congressional district
John W. Olver