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William Atchison O'Neill

Gov. O'Neill greets a young visitor to his office.

In office
December 31, 1980 – January 9, 1991
Lieutenant Joseph J. Fauliso
Preceded by Ella T. Grasso
Succeeded by Lowell P. Weicker

Governor Ella T. Grasso
Preceded by Robert Killian
Succeeded by Joseph J. Fauliso

Born August 11, 1930(1930-08-11)
Hartford, Connecticut
Died November 24, 2007 (aged 77)
East Hampton, Connecticut
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Nikki O'Neill
Profession Legislator
Religion Roman Catholic

William Atchison O'Neill (August 11, 1930 – November 24, 2007) was a twentieth century U.S. political figure, most notably as the 84th Governor of Connecticut from 1980 to 1991.

Born in Hartford, Connecticut, he was elected Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut in 1978 on a Democratic ticket along with Governor Ella Grasso. When Grasso resigned for health reasons in December 1980, O'Neill became Governor. O'Neill was elected to a full term in 1982 and re-elected in 1986.

Prior to serving as Lieutenant Governor O'Neill served as the state representative from East Hampton, Connecticut, where he owned a restaurant.

O'Neill benefited from the economic boom Connecticut enjoyed during the 1980s when the state's job growth was at a recent historic peak. The state enjoyed large budget surpluses in this era. His large re-election victory in 1986 over Lowell Weicker ally Julie Belaga had an effect on the state legislature, which gained large majorities of liberal Democrats eager to expand state government, such as House Speaker Irving Stolberg. By 1989 the state's finances were in precarious condition, requiring a major tax increase.

The 1990 recession hit Connecticut very hard, with the real estate, banking and defense industries all faltering with resultant job losses and tax revenue losses. Facing plummeting approval ratings and a budget situation continuing to deteriorate despite the 1989 tax hike, O'Neill decided in early 1990 to bow out of a re-election bid.

O'Neill died from emphysema on November 24, 2007 at the age of 77. He was eulogized by his fellow Connecticut politicians as Trumanesque. "I always thought the secret to his success was that he was genuine," said John Droney, who was chairman of the state Democratic party during O'Neill's last term. "He was honest. And he projected the image of an ordinary man called upon to do extraordinary things. He was, in my view, the Harry Truman of Connecticut." [1] Republican state chairman Chris Healy called O'Neill "a good and decent man who served his state and country with distinction."[1]

Political offices
Preceded by
Robert Killian
Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut
Succeeded by
Joseph J. Fauliso
Preceded by
Ella T. Grasso
Governor of Connecticut
Succeeded by
Lowell P. Weicker


  1. ^ The Everyday Republican: Bill O'Neill - A Regular Guy, A Great Leader


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