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Silvio Conte

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 1st district
In office
Preceded by John W. Heselton
Succeeded by John Olver

Born November 9, 1921(1921-11-09)
Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Died February 8, 1991 (aged 69)
Bethesda, Maryland
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Corrine Conte
Religion Roman Catholic

Silvio Ottavio Conte (November 9, 1921 – February 8, 1991) was a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives for 16 terms, from January 3, 1959 until his death.

Born to Italian immigrants in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, he represented Massachusetts's first congressional district for seventeen consecutive terms.

Conte attended Pittsfield Vocational High School, graduating in 1940. He served in the United States Navy during World War II from 1942 to 1944, then attended Boston College and Boston College Law School under the G. I. Bill receiving a law degree (LL.B.) in 1949.

Conte returned to Pittsfield and immediately turned his attention to politics. Conte was elected to the Massachusetts Senate in 1950 and served 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 his entire congressional career.

Conte was known for 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 [1].

The Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Connecticut is named in his honor. He also secured funding for a polymer research center at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. The Silvio O. Conte National Center for Polymer Research at UMass Amherst was named in Conte's honor, as was Building 49 of the National Institutes of Health. A passionate advocate for federal funded research through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the NIH continues to honor him today with grants for neurological research awarded in his name and several university-based Silvio O. Conte Centers for neuroscience research [2]. The National Archives located on Dan Fox Drive in Pittsfield is named after Conte, and West Side Elementary School in west Pittsfield was renamed Silvio O. Conte Community School[3] after his death.

Conte never lost an election and was the only member of Congress who lacked 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. Although a member of the Republican Party, Conte was described as a liberal Republican.[1] Conte voted against U.S. involvement in the 1991 Gulf War. On social issues, Conte had a mixed record, reflecting his Roman Catholic heritage; for instance, he was opposed to abortion.[2] The future Speaker of the British House of Commons, Betty Boothroyd, worked for him briefly in the early 1960s.

Conte Forum, a multi-purpose arena at Boston College, is named for him. Opened in 1988, Conte Forum is home to the Boston College Eagles men's and women's basketball and ice hockey teams.

Congressman Conte died at age 69 of prostate cancer in Bethesda, Maryland on February 8, 1991, and is buried in St. Joseph's Cemetery in his home town of Pittsfield. Over 5,000 of his constituents waited in line in five degree weather to attend his wake at tiny All Souls Church, his childhood church, in Pittsfield. His funeral was attended, even as the First Gulf war was beginning, 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 friends Tip O'Neil, former U.S. Speaker of the House and Senator Edward Kennedy.

He was survived by his wife Corinne (née Duval), and their four children. John Olver, a Democrat, succeeded him in Congress.


  • David Nyhan (February 9, 1991). "Silvio Conte dies at age 69". The Boston Globe: p. 1.  
  • New York Times obituary, 1991-02-10


External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
John W. Heselton
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 1st congressional district

Succeeded by
John W. Olver

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