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John Orlando Pastore

In office
December 19, 1950 – December 28, 1976
Preceded by Edward L. Leahy
Succeeded by John H. Chafee

In office
October 6, 1945 – December 18, 1950
Preceded by J. Howard McGrath
Succeeded by John S. McKiernan

Born March 17, 1907(1907-03-17)
Providence, Rhode Island
Died July 15, 2000 (aged 93)
Cranston, Rhode Island
Political party Democratic

John Orlando Pastore (1907-2000) was a Rhode Island Democratic Party politician who was a United States Senator from Rhode Island (1950 until 1976) and the Governor of Rhode Island (1945 until 1950), and was the first Italian American to hold either position.

Early life and career

Born in Providence on March 17, 1907, he attended Classical High School and graduated from law school at Northeastern University in 1931 where he went on to practice law in Providence. He was a member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives from 1935 to 1937, was assistant attorney general of Rhode Island from 1937 to 1938 and again from 1940 to 1944. He was elected Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island in 1944. He became Governor of Rhode Island in 1945 when Governor J. Howard McGrath resigned to become Solicitor General of the United States. In 1946, Pastore was elected to a gubernatorial term in his own right; he was re-elected in 1948.


In 1950 he was elected to the United States Senate as a Democrat in a special election to replace J. Howard McGrath, who had resigned. He was re-elected in 1952, 1958, 1964 and 1970.

In the summer of 1964, he delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, which renominated Lyndon B. Johnson for the Presidency.

He won his final Senate race in 1970 by a 68%-32% margin over John McLaughlin, a Catholic Priest who was against the Vietnam War. (McLaughlin, who later left the priesthood, would become more famous as the host of the television program The McLaughlin Group.)

In 1976 he retired, living in Cranston until his death due to kidney failure on July 15, 2000.[1]

Pastore served as the chairman of United States Senate Subcommittee on Communications. He is probably best remembered for taking part in a hearing involving a $20 million grant for the funding of PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which was proposed by Former President Lyndon Johnson. The hearing took place on May 1, 1969. President Richard Nixon had wanted to cut the proposed funding to $10 million due to all the spending during the Vietnam War, and Fred Rogers, host of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, appeared before the committee to argue for the full $20 million. In about six minutes of testimony, Rogers spoke of the need for social and emotional education that Public Television provided. Pastore was not previously familiar with Rogers' work, and was sometimes described as gruff and impatient. However, he told Rogers that the testimony had given him goose bumps, and after Rogers recited the lyrics to "What Do You Do with the Mad that You Feel?", one of the songs from his show, Pastore finally declared, "I think it's wonderful. I think it's wonderful. Looks like you just earned the $20 million."[1] The following congressional appropriation, for 1971, increased PBS funding from $9 million to $22 million.


  1. ^ Google Video: Video of Mr. Roger's testimony. Retrieved April 9, 2007.
Political offices
Preceded by
J. Howard McGrath
Governor of Rhode Island
1945 – 1950
Succeeded by
John S. McKiernan
United States Senate
Preceded by
Edward L. Leahy
United States Senator (Class 1) from Rhode Island
1950 – 1976
Served alongside: Theodore F. Green, Claiborne Pell
Succeeded by
John H. Chafee


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