David I. Walsh: Wikis


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David Ignatius Walsh

In office
March 4, 1919 – March 3, 1925 (Class 2)
December 6, 1926 – January 3, 1947 (Class 1)
Preceded by John W. Weeks (Class 2)
William M. Butler (Class 1)
Succeeded by Frederick H. Gillett (Class 2)
Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. (Class 1)

In office
January 8, 1914 – January 6, 1916
Lieutenant Edward P. Barry (1914-1915)
Grafton D. Cushing (1915-1916)
Preceded by Eugene Foss
Succeeded by Samuel W. McCall

In office
1913 – 1914
Governor Eugene Foss
Preceded by Robert Luce
Succeeded by Edward P. Barry

Born November 11, 1872(1872-11-11)
Leominster, Massachusetts
Died June 11, 1947 (aged 74)
Boston, Massachusetts
Political party Democratic
Alma mater College of the Holy Cross
Boston University
Profession Lawyer
Religion Roman Catholic

David Ignatius Walsh (1872-1947) was a United States politician from Massachusetts. As a member of the Democratic Party, he served in the state legislature and then as Lieutenant Governor (1913-1914) and Governor (1914-1916). His first term in the U.S. Senate (1919-1925) was followed by a brief hiatus from government, after which he was elected to the U.S. Senate four times, serving from 1926-1947. On foreign affairs, he was an consistent isolationist, from his early opposition to U.S. domination of the Philippines to opposing Lend-Lease until the attack on Pearl Harbor.


Youth and education

Walsh was born in Leominster, Worcester County, Massachusetts, on November 11, 1872, the ninth of ten children. His parents were Irish Catholic immigrants. Walsh attended public schools in his birthplace and later in Clinton, Massachusetts. His father, a comb maker, died when he was twelve. Thereafter, his mother ran a boarding house.

Walsh graduated from Clinton High School in 1890 and from Holy Cross in 1893. He attended Boston University Law School, where he graduated in 1897. Walsh was admitted to the bar and commenced the practice of law in Fitchburg, Massachusetts in 1897, later practicing in Boston.[1]

Political career

Walsh was a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives for two terms in 1900 and 1901. From the start of his political career, he was anti-imperialist and isolationist and opposed America's authority over the Philippines as part of the settlement of the Spanish-American War. Walsh's vote to restrict the hours that women and children could work to 58 led to his defeat when he sought another term.[2] He next lost the race for Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts in 1910, but ran again and won in 1912.[3] He became the first Irish and the first Catholic Governor of Massachusetts in 1914, serving two one-year terms. As Governor, Walsh fought for a Women's Suffrage Amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution, but this effort failed. He was a delegate at large to the Massachusetts constitutional convention in 1917 and 1918 and also campaigned for film censorship in the state after large protests were mounted against the racial depictions in D. W. Griffith's film The Birth of a Nation.

Walsh was elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate and served from March 4, 1919, to March 3, 1925. He was the first Irish-Catholic Senator from Massachusetts. A noted orator, he introduced Irish Republic President Éamon de Valera at Fenway Park on June 29, 1919.[4] Walsh failed to win reelection in 1924, the year of the Coolidge landslide, and briefly resumed the practice of law in Boston. In December 1926, he won election to the United States Senate again to complete the two years remaining in the term of Henry Cabot Lodge.[5] He won reelection in 1928, 1934 and 1940, failing in his final bid for reelection in 1946. During his Senate service, Walsh held the posts of chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor (73rd and 74th Congresses) and of the Committee on Naval Affairs (74th-77th and 79th Congresses). He objected to Justice Hugo Black's membership in the Ku Klux Klan in his youth and promoted the appointment of Jews to the judiciary, notably that of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis.[6]

In the Senate, Walsh was an isolationist, opposing an American alliance with the United Kingdom until the attack on Pearl Harbor. After the 1940 election in particular, he opposed any action that would compromise American neutrality, first in closed-door hearings of the Naval Affairs Committee, which he headed, and then in attacking the Lend-Lease program on the floor of the Senate.[7] He was a leading member of the America First movement, opposing U.S. involvement in World War II. On May 7, 1942, the New York Post, which had long favored U.S. involvement in the European conflict, implicated Walsh in a sensational sex and spy scandal uncovered at a Brooklyn male brothel for U.S. Navy personnel that had been infiltrated by Nazi spies.[8] The charges went unreported by the rest of the press, but word of mouth made it, according to Time, "one of the worst scandals that ever affected a member of the Senate."[9] President Roosevelt assumed there was truth to the charges since, as he told Vice President Henry Wallace, "everyone knew" about Walsh's homosexuality.[10] An FBI investigation produced no evidence to support the New York Post's specific charges, though there was much "derogatory information".[11] Walsh himself called the story "a diabolical lie" and demanded a full investigation.[12]

On May 20, 1942, with a full report from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover in hand, Alben W. Barkley, the Senate's majority leader addressed the upper house at length on the irresponsibility of the New York Post, the laudable restraint of the rest of the press, the details of the FBI's report, and the Senate's affirmation of Walsh's "unsullied" reputation.[13] Isolationist senators promptly denounced the charges as an attack on their political position. Senator Bennett Clark asserted that Morris Ernst, attorney for the New York Post, had contacted the White House trying to engage the administration to smear FDR's opposition. Senator Gerald Nye contended the incident represented a larger effort on the part of a "secret society" that for two years had been trying to discredit him and his fellow isolationists.[14] The senatorial speeches gave the press permission to cover the affair at last. Time, another opponent of Walsh's foreign policy position, concluded, "The known facts made only one thing indisputable: either a serious scandal was being hushed up or a really diabolical libel had been perpetrated."[15] Given his poor relationship with the White House, Walsh anticipated that the administration might even support an opponent in a Democratic primary when he next ran for reelection.[16] He faced no such challenge, but was defeated in his 1946 race for reelection by Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr..

Personal life and death

Walsh never married. He and his brother Thomas (deceased 1931) supported their four unmarried sisters, two of whom outlived the Senator.[17] Upon his retirement from political office, he resided in Clinton, Massachusetts until his death following a cerebral hemorrhage in Boston on June 11, 1947.[18] Walsh is buried in St. John’s Cemetery, Clinton. A bronze statue of him by Joseph Coletti was erected near the Music Oval on Boston's Charles River Esplanade in 1954. It bears the motto: "non sibi sed patriae", a tribute to his service to the U.S. Navy while in the Senate.[19][20]


  1. ^ Wayman, 1-23
  2. ^ Wayman, 34-5
  3. ^ Wayman, 44-5
  4. ^ Wayman, 108-11
  5. ^ Wayman, 153, 159
  6. ^ New York Times, June 12, 1947; Wayman, 88-9; See also Walsh–Healey Public Contracts Act.
  7. ^ O'Toole, 123-4.
  8. ^ Wayman, 312
  9. ^ TIME, June 1, 1942
  10. ^ Fleming, 298. Roosevelt had a similar conversation with Barkley (Gentry, 287). See also Charles, 87ff; Fleming, 298; Peabody and Ebersole, 16. Attorney General Francis Biddle described Walsh in the mid-1930s as "an elderly politician with a soft tread and low, colorless voice...whose concealed and controlled anxieties not altogether centered on retaining his job." Biddle, 202
  11. ^ Gentry, 287
  12. ^ Wayman, 312
  13. ^ Wayman, 351-8
  14. ^ New York Times, May 21, 1942
  15. ^ TIME, June 1, 1942
  16. ^ Hanify, 26-7
  17. ^ Ibid., 36, 123-4, 193, 322, 344-6
  18. ^ New York Times, June 12, 1947
  19. ^ City of Boston, Charles River Esplanade
  20. ^ Irish Heritage Trail, Boston


  • Biddle, Francis, In Brief Authority, (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1962)
  • Charles, Douglas M., J. Edgar Hoover and the Anti-interventionists: FBI Political Surveillance and the Rise fof the Domestic Security State, (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 2007)
  • City of Boston: "Charles River Esplanade Study Report as amended June 23, 2009"
  • Fleming, Thomas, The New Dealers' War: F.D.R, and the War within World War II (Basic Books, 2001) ISBN 0465024653
  • Gentry, Curt, J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets, (NY: W.W. Norton, 1991)
  • Hanify, Edward B., Memories of a Senator: The Honorable David I. Walsh (Boston, MA?, 1994?)
  • Improper Bostonians: Lesbian and Gay History from the Puritans to Playland, (Boston:Beacon Press, 1998)
  • Irish Heritage Trail: Irish Heritage Trail, Boston
  • New York Times: Ex-Senator Walsh Dies at Age of 74, June 12, 1947
  • New York Times: FBI Clears Walsh, Barkley Asserts, May 21, 1942
  • O'Toole, David Outing the Senator: Sex, Spies, and Videotape (privately published, 2005) ISBN 097719700X
  • TIME: The Press: The Case of Senator X, June 1, 1942, accessed Dec. 1, 2009
  • Peabody, Richard and Ebersole, Lucinda, Conversatons with Gore Vidal (University Press of Mississippi, 2005)
  • Wayman, Dorothy G. David I. Walsh: Citizen-Patriot (Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Company, 1952)</ref>

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Robert Luce
Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts
Succeeded by
Edward P. Barry
Preceded by
Eugene N. Foss
Governor of Massachusetts
Succeeded by
Samuel W. McCall
Preceded by
Jesse H. Metcalf
Rhode Island
Chairman of the Senate Education and Labor Committee
Succeeded by
Hugo L. Black
United States Senate
Preceded by
John W. Weeks
United States Senator (Class 2) from Massachusetts
Served alongside: Henry Cabot Lodge, William M. Butler
Succeeded by
Frederick H. Gillett
Preceded by
William M. Butler
United States Senator (Class 1) from Massachusetts
Served alongside: Frederick H. Gillett, Marcus A. Coolidge, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., Sinclair Weeks, Leverett Saltonstall
Succeeded by
Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.

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