John Volpe

John Anthony Volpe (/ˈvoʊlpi/; December 8, 1908 – November 11, 1994) was an American businessman, diplomat, and politician from Massachusetts. A self-made son of Italian immigrants, he founded and owned a large construction firm. Politically, he was a Republican in increasingly Democratic Massachusetts, serving as its 61st and 63rd Governor from 1961 to 1963 and 1965 to 1969, as the United States Secretary of Transportation from 1969 to 1973, and as the United States Ambassador to Italy from 1973 to 1977.[1] He was an important figure in the development of the Interstate Highway System at the federal level.

John Volpe
John Volpe (1970)
Volpe as Transportation Secretary, 1970
United States Ambassador to Italy
In office
March 6, 1973 – January 24, 1977
PresidentRichard Nixon
Gerald Ford
Jimmy Carter
Preceded byGraham Martin
Succeeded byRichard N. Gardner
2nd United States Secretary of Transportation
In office
January 22, 1969 – February 2, 1973
PresidentRichard Nixon
Preceded byAlan Boyd
Succeeded byClaude Brinegar
Chair of the National Governors Association
In office
October 16, 1967 – July 21, 1968
Preceded byWilliam L. Guy
Succeeded byBuford Ellington
61st and 63rd Governor of Massachusetts
In office
January 7, 1965 – January 22, 1969
LieutenantElliot Richardson
Francis W. Sargent
Preceded byEndicott Peabody
Succeeded byFrancis W. Sargent
In office
January 5, 1961 – January 3, 1963
LieutenantEdward F. McLaughlin Jr.
Preceded byFoster Furcolo
Succeeded byEndicott Peabody
Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration
In office
October 22, 1956 – February 5, 1957
PresidentDwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded byCharles Dwight Curtiss
Succeeded byBertram D. Tallamy
Massachusetts Commissioner of Public Works
In office
February 1953 – October 22, 1956
GovernorChristian Herter
Preceded byWilliam F. Callahan
Succeeded byAnthony DiNatale
Personal details
John Anthony Volpe

December 8, 1908
Wakefield, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedNovember 11, 1994 (aged 85)
Nahant, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Jennie Benedetto
EducationWentworth Institute of Technology (BS)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Navy
Years of service1942–1946
UnitSeabees Instructor

Early life and education

Volpe was born on December 8, 1908 in Wakefield, Massachusetts.[2] He was the son of Italian immigrants Vito and Filomena (née Benedetto) Volpe, who had come from Abruzzo to Boston's North End on the SS Canopic in 1905; his father was in the construction business.

Volpe attended the Wentworth Institute (later known as the Wentworth Institute of Technology) in Boston where he majored in architectural construction and entered the construction business, building his own firm in 1930.[3]

Personal life

On June 18, 1934, Volpe married Giovannina Benedetto, with whom he had two children, John Anthony, Jr. and Loretta Jean Volpe Rotondi. During World War II, he volunteered to serve stateside as a United States Navy Seabees training officer. He was a Knight of Columbus.[4]

Early political career

In 1953, Governor Christian Herter appointed him the Massachusetts Commissioner of Public Works, and in 1956 he was appointed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower as the first administrator of the Federal Highway Administration. In this position he oversaw the early phases of the development of the Interstate Highway System.

Governor of Massachusetts

In 1960, Volpe was elected Governor of Massachusetts, defeating Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth Joseph D. Ward. He served as governor from 1961 to 1963. In 1962, Volpe was narrowly defeated for reelection, losing to former Governor's Councillor Endicott Peabody in a Democratic landslide. In 1964, Volpe ran again for governor and was able to capitalize on disarray within the Massachusetts Democratic Party when Lieutenant Governor Francis X. Bellotti defeated Peabody for the Democratic nomination for governor. Despite the Democratic landslide nationwide that year, Volpe defeated Bellotti in a close race. In 1966, Volpe was elected to the first four-year term in Massachusetts history, defeating former Massachusetts Attorney General Edward J. McCormack, Jr.

During his administration, Governor Volpe signed legislation to ban racial imbalances in education, reorganize the state's Board of Education, liberalize birth control laws, and increase public housing for low-income families. Governor Volpe also raised revenues, engaging in a long and ultimately successful fight to institute a three percent state sales tax. He served as president of the National Governors Association from 1967 to 1968.

Presidential campaign

In 1968, Volpe ran unsuccessfully as a "Favorite son" candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. He was defeated in the state presidential primary by a spontaneous write-in campaign for New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller.[5] Volpe was one of the finalists in Richard M. Nixon's decision concerning a running mate; he was considered acceptable to most wings of the party, but Nixon ultimately selected Spiro Agnew instead.[6]

Secretary of Transportation

Following the election, President Nixon rewarded Volpe for his support by appointing him Secretary of Transportation. He resigned as governor to assume the cabinet post, and served in that position from 1969 to 1973. During his tenure, Volpe abandoned previous positions supportive of unfettered highway construction, instead pushing for a more balanced approach to the nation's transportation infrastructure. He was notably instrumental in effectively ending attempts to revive Boston's failed Inner Belt project, which he had promoted as highway administrator.[7] Amtrak was established during his time in office.

Volpe was the second to serve in this role following the position becoming a Cabinet-level appointment. He received the Award of Excellence in 1970 from Engineering News-Record for his service as Secretary of Transportation.[8]

Ambassador to Italy

Volpe had a long and abiding interest in the homeland of his parents, and visited it many times. In 1969, he was awarded the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.[9]

In 1973, Volpe was nominated by President Nixon and confirmed by the United States Senate as United States Ambassador to Italy, a position he held until 1977. Volpe was looked down upon by elements of the Italian elite, due to is roots in southern Italy,[10] and upset leftist elements of its political establishment by making strong statements against the inclusion of the Italian Communist Party in its government. He was accused by the Italian Communist press of being "neo-Fascist" for his views.[11]

Death and legacy

Volpe died in Nahant, Massachusetts on November 11, 1994, at the age of 85.[1] He was buried at Forest Glade Cemetery in Wakefield, Massachusetts.

The John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge was named in his memory, as well as the Governor John A. Volpe Library at Wakefield High School in Wakefield. Volpe's papers are stored in the Archives and Special Collections of the Northeastern University Libraries, in Boston.[12] Terminal E at Logan International Airport is also dedicated in his honor.


  1. ^ a b Jennifer Steinhauer (November 13, 1994). "John A. Volpe, Nixon Supporter And Massachusetts Governor, 85". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-11-11. John Anthony Volpe, a former Governor of Massachusetts, Ambassador to Italy and United States Secretary of Transportation, died on Friday night. He was 85 and lived in Nahunt, Mass. The Nahant police attributed his death to natural causes. ...
  2. ^ Kilgore, pp. 19-20
  3. ^ "Biography: John A. Volpe" Archived 2012-11-22 at the Wayback Machine, US Department of Transportation
  4. ^ Lapomarda, S.J., Vincent A. (1992). The Knights of Columbus in Massachusetts (second ed.). Norwood, Massachusetts: Knights of Columbus Massachusetts State Council. p. 88.
  5. ^ Wainstock, p. 94
  6. ^ Wainstock, pp. 115-116
  7. ^ Rose and Mohl, pp. 154-157
  8. ^ Lewis, Scott (April 20, 2015), "ENR Marks 50 Years of Excellence", Engineering News-Record, New York: Dodge Data & Analytics, vol. 274 no. 11, pp. 42–56, ISSN 0891-9526
  9. ^ Fornasier, pp. xvii-xviii
  10. ^ Gardner, p. 36
  11. ^ Fornasier, pp. 124, 226
  12. ^ John A. Volpe Papers - Northeastern University Library


  • Fornasier, Roberto (2013). The Dove and the Eagle. Cambridge Scholars Publisher. ISBN 9781443844833.
  • Gardner, Richard (2005). Mission Italy: On the Front Lines of the Cold War. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9780742539983.
  • Kilgore, Kathleen (1987isbn=9780899091211). John Volpe, The Life of An Immigrant's Son. Yankee Books. Check date values in: |year= (help)
  • Rose, Mark H; Mohl, Raymond (2012). Interstate: Highway Politics and Policy Since 1939. University of Tennessee Press. ISBN 9781572337831.
  • Wainstock, Dennis (2013). Election Year 1968: The Turning Point. Enigma Books. ISBN 9781936274413.
Party political offices
Preceded by
Charles Gibbons
Republican nominee for Governor of Massachusetts
1960, 1962, 1964, 1966
Succeeded by
Francis W. Sargent
Political offices
Preceded by
Foster Furcolo
Governor of Massachusetts
Succeeded by
Endicott Peabody
Preceded by
Endicott Peabody
Governor of Massachusetts
Succeeded by
Francis W. Sargent
Preceded by
William L. Guy
Chair of the National Governors Association
Succeeded by
Buford Ellington
Preceded by
Alan Boyd
United States Secretary of Transportation
Succeeded by
Claude Brinegar
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Graham Martin
United States Ambassador to Italy
Succeeded by
Richard N. Gardner
1960 Massachusetts gubernatorial election

The 1960 Massachusetts gubernatorial election was held on November 8, 1960. John A. Volpe was elected Governor of Massachusetts to replace Foster Furcolo. Volpe defeated Democrat Joseph D. Ward in the race. Also running were Henning A. Blomen of the Socialist Labor Party of America and Guy S. Williams of the Prohibition Party.

In the race for Lieutenant Governor, Democrat Edward F. McLaughlin, Jr., defeated Republican Augustus Gardner Means, Prohibition candidate Thomas Maratea, and Socialist Labor candidate Francis A. Votano.

1962 Massachusetts gubernatorial election

The 1962 Massachusetts gubernatorial election was held on November 6, 1962. Former Executive Councilor Endicott Peabody defeated incumbent Governor John A. Volpe in the general election.

1964 Massachusetts gubernatorial election

The 1964 Massachusetts gubernatorial election was held on November 3, 1964. Former Governor John A. Volpe was elected to a two-year term. He defeated former Lieutenant Governor Francis X. Bellotti in the general election.The race between Volpe and Bellotti was the first time in Massachusetts history that the two major parties backed sons of Italian immigrants for governor.This was the final election held before the governor's term of office was extended from two to four years.

1966 Massachusetts gubernatorial election

The 1966 Massachusetts gubernatorial election was held on November 8, 1966. Governor John A. Volpe was reelected to a four-year term. He defeated former Attorney General Edward J. McCormack, Jr. in the general election. This was the first election held since Governor's Term of office was extended from two to four years.

1968 Republican Party presidential primaries

The 1968 Republican presidential primaries were the selection process by which voters of the Republican Party chose its nominee for President of the United States in the 1968 U.S. presidential election. Former Vice President Richard Nixon was selected as the nominee through a series of primary elections and caucuses culminating in the 1968 Republican National Convention held from August 5 to August 8, 1968, in Miami Beach, Florida.


The Aérotrain was an experimental Tracked Air Cushion Vehicle

(TACV), or hovertrain, developed in France from 1965 to 1977 under the engineering leadership of Jean Bertin (1917-1975) — and intended to bring the French rail network to the cutting edge of land-based public transportation.Though similar to a maglev design, which levitates a train car over a complex electromagnetic track to eliminate all resistance other than aerodynamic drag, the Aérotrain — also a "train without wheels" — rode on an air cushion over a simple reinforced concrete track or guideway and could travel at unprecedented speed, without the further technical complexity and expense of the maglev track. In many respects, the entire concept resembled a product of the aircraft rather than rail industry.Impressed by the Aérotrain, a U.S. company, Rohr Industries, Inc., licensed the technology in 1969 to build the hovertrains in the United States. That same year the Aérotrain established the world record for a TACV, the pilots saying that with a longer track even higher speeds could have been reached without major difficulties. The final prototype, the Aérotrain I80, set a world speed record in 1974 for overland air cushion vehicles, reaching a speed of 259.5 miles per hour and a peak speed of 267.4 miles per hour. The prototypes, which ultimately used twin turbine engines through a ducted propeller with seven blades, demonstrated they could accelerate and decelerate quickly, which offered a huge advantage of enabling effective service between tightly spaced stops.US Secretary of Transportation John Volpe, the mayor of Los Angeles and representatives and transportation specialists from over 18 countries came to France and participated in test rides, studied the system and reported on the Aérotrain. Bertin felt the technology was sufficiently realized for full implementation, and the French government signed a contract to implement full-scale service on the outskirts of Paris, between Cergy and La Défense. The Aérotrain nonetheless ran into increasing internal conflicts with its client SNCF, which had no research and development department of its own and strongly favored improving the existing rail system.

Aérotrain faced numerous design challenges. The system would require new elevated guideways for every implementation — further pitting Aérotrain against efforts to improve existing "wheeled" rail system. Bertin's Versailles-based companies, Bertin and Co. and Aeroglide Systems, Inc., worked to resolve issues with sudden changes in air pressure, as when the train would pass another train or enter a tunnel. Prototypes used gas turbines with giant propellers, which created tremendous noise both inside and outside the train car itself — and thus required reduced speeds in urban areas. SNCF felt they already had trains that could run at those reduced speeds. Proponents pointed out electric linear induction motors could make the TACV silent. Eventually SNCF simply opposed the project, citing a broad litany of concerns.In 1974, after his election as President of France, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing formally annulled the contract for the Aérotrain Cergy-La Défense line and SNCF formally shifted support to the Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV) as its high-speed ground-transportation solution. Notably, D'Estaing's wife was the granddaughter of Eugène Schneider, founder of what became an international syndicate, Schneider Group. Noted Belgian journalist Karel Vereycken pointed out: "the Schneider dynasty have been and are still a pillar of the history of the French railroad and steel industry. Hence, the innovation of the Aérotrain (to be built by the aircraft industry) would not, in the short run, have made them more wealthy and one can easily imagine that a train without wheels does not get much enthusiastic approval of the feudal wheel producers." Rohr abandoned the technology in 1975.

Jean Bertin, suffering with cancer and overworked after a decade of effort, died in December 1975. The I-80 Aérotrain made its last trip on December 27, 1977. On July 17, 1991, the S-44 Aérotrain prototype was destroyed by fire in its storage facility at Gometz-la-Ville and in 1992 the I-80 prototype was destroyed in Chevilly by arson. Of the four prototypes that had been built, the last two remain stored in France.Jean Bertin's company, now Bertin Technologies, remains in business, focusing on aerospace, defense, and transportation sectors. Outside Orleans, the remains of the abandoned and partially-demolished, elevated concrete test track remain to this day, easily visible from the parallel SNCF Paris-Orleans TGV route.

Endicott Peabody

Endicott "Chub" Peabody (February 15, 1920 – December 2, 1997) was an American politician from Massachusetts. A Democrat, he served a single two-year term as the 62nd Governor of Massachusetts, from 1963 to 1965. He is probably best known for his opposition to the death penalty, and his many electoral failures.

Born in Lawrence, Massachusetts to a family with deep colonial roots, Peabody played college football at Harvard University, where he earned honors as an All-American lineman. He served in the United States Navy in World War II before embarking on a political career noted more for its failures than its successes. He made multiple unsuccessful attempts to win the position of Massachusetts Attorney General, and for the United States Senate representing both Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and ran for United States Vice President in 1972.

Francis Bellotti

Francis Xavier Bellotti (born May 3, 1923) is an American lawyer and politician. In his first campaign he was the Democratic nominee for District Attorney of Norfolk County in 1958, but was defeated in the general election. In 1962 Bellotti was elected as Lieutenant Governor for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from 1963 to 1965.

In 1964 he had challenged the sitting governor of his own party, Endicott Peabody, and defeated him in the Democratic Primary; but lost in the general election to John Volpe who thus regained the seat he had lost in 1962. From 1975 to 1987 he served three terms as Massachusetts Attorney General. In that capacity he instilled professionalism among his staff, was a leader for civil rights and served as President of the National Association of Attorneys General. He sought the nomination of the Democratic party for governor in 1970 and in 1990, but was defeated in the Democratic primary election in both elections losing to Kevin White the first time and John Silber the second.

In his official capacity for the state he was the named party in the commercial speech case: First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, 435 U.S. 765 (1978), which established that corporations have some free speech rights under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.Bellotti was born in Boston. He graduated from Tufts University in 1947 and received his law degree from Boston College in 1952. Since leaving office, Bellotti has practiced law in Boston, Massachusetts with the firm of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo. He is the father of twelve children, including Norfolk County Sheriff Michael G. Bellotti.

In 2012, the district courthouse in Quincy, Massachusetts, was named in his honor.He is the Vice Chairman of Arbella Insurance Group.

Francis Sargent

Francis Williams Sargent (July 29, 1915 – October 22, 1998) was an American politician who served as the 64th Governor of Massachusetts from 1969-75.

Governor of Massachusetts

The Governor of Massachusetts is the head of the executive branch of the Government of Massachusetts and serves as commander-in-chief of the Commonwealth's military forces. The current governor is Charlie Baker.

John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center

Volpe, The National Transportation Systems Center or simply Volpe in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a center of transportation and logistics expertise, operating under the United States Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT).

The Volpe Center is named after Governor of Massachusetts and U.S. Secretary of Transportation John Volpe, and its work includes a broad mix of projects that cut across traditional transportation modes and technical disciplines including the Federal Aviation Administration's Enhanced Traffic Management System (ETMS) and Safety Performance Analysis System (SPAS), and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's SafeStat Online.

The Center assists federal, state, and local governments, industry, and academia in a number of areas of consultation including human factors research, system design, implementation and assessment, global tracking, strategic investment and resource allocation, environmental preservation, and organizational effectiveness.

Volpe is part of the U.S. DOT's Research and Innovative Technology Administration. However, it differs from most federal organizations in that it receives no direct appropriation from Congress. Instead, it is funded 100% through a fee-for-service structure in which all costs are covered by sponsored project work (approx. $200 million annually).

Lawrence Edwards

Lawrence (Larry) K. Edwards (July 10, 1919 – April 4, 2009) was an American innovator in aerospace and ground transportation. Early in his career, he pioneered technologies for U.S. space and missile defense programs. He went on to invent and promote high-speed Gravity-Vacuum Transit and monobeam rail transit. He obtained a total of 14 patents in those areas.

Massachusetts Republican Party

The Massachusetts Republican Party (MassGOP) is the Massachusetts branch of the United States Republican Party.

In accordance with Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 52, The party is governed by a State Committee which consists of one man and one woman from each of the Commonwealth's 40 State Senate Districts of the Commonwealth elected at the quadrennial election of Electors for President of the U.S. The State Committee elects party officers including a Chair.

Merrimack Athletics Complex

The Merrimack Athletics Complex is the home of the Merrimack College Warriors athletics teams. It has a basketball court and hockey arena. Hammel Court, located in the Volpe Athletic Center, is the home of the men's and women's basketball teams, as well as the volleyball team. Lawler Rink is the home of the Division I Merrimack Warriors men's ice hockey team, which had won the 1978 Division II national title before transitioning to Division I and joining the prestigious Hockey East Conference.

The athletic center is named for S. Peter Volpe, a member of the college's Board of Trustees and benefactor. His construction company was responsible for the building of the McQuaid Library on campus. His brother, John Volpe, was U.S. Secretary of Transportation under President Richard M. Nixon. The hockey arena is named for J. Thom Lawler, former coach of the men's hockey team who died in 1978 at age 44, just after leading the team to their national title. The basketball and volleyball court is named after former men's basketball head coach Bert Hammel.Over the summer and winter break of 2010, extensive renovation was done on the arena. The wooden bench seating was completely replaced with seatback chair seating and a student bleacher section was installed behind the visiting goalie's side. The "tin foil" insulation was removed from the roof as well. Seating capacity did go down but attendance has skyrocketed.

National Governors Association

The National Governors Association (NGA) is an American political organization founded in 1908. The association’s members are the governors of the 55 states, territories and commonwealths. Members come to the association from across the political spectrum, but NGA itself is nonpartisan. Because of that, governors can share best practices, speak with an informed voice on national policy and develop innovative solutions that improve citizens’ lives through state government and support the principles of federalism.

Political party strength in Massachusetts

The following table indicates the party of elected officials in Massachusetts:


Lieutenant Governor

Secretary of the Commonwealth

Attorney General

Treasurer and Receiver-General

AuditorThe table also indicates the historical party composition in the:

Massachusetts Senate

Massachusetts House of Representatives

State delegation to the United States Senate

State delegation to the United States House of RepresentativesFor years in which a United States presidential election was held, the table indicates which party's nominees received the state's electoral votes, and whether they Y won the election or N lost the election.

Each time an official is elected or re-elected, a new box for that official is included to indicate their repeated political party strength.

The parties are as follows: American (A) (More commonly known as the Know Nothing Party), Anti-Administration (AA), American Labor (AL) Conservative (C), Constitutional Union (CU), Democratic (D), Democratic-Republican (DR), Federalist (F), Independence (I), Jacksonian Democratic (JD), no party (N), National Republican (NR), National Union (NU), People's Party (P), Pro-Administration (PA), Republican (R), Whig (W), Working Families (WF), and a tie or coalition within a group of elected officials.

Thomas Trimarco

Thomas H. Trimarco is an American political figure who served as Massachusetts Secretary of Administration and Finance from 2005 to 2007. He is currently a senior vice president in the government relations division at O’Neill and Associates.

United States Post Office Garage

The US Post Office Garage was a historic vehicle maintenance facility at 135 A Street in the South Boston neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. The two story building was designed in the International Style by Gilbert Underwood and completed in 1941 by a construction team headed by John Volpe. It was built out of reinforced concrete and steel. Its exterior was scored in a way to give the appearance of paneling, and had large expanses of steel sash windows that typified the International style. Its rounded corners gave it a streamlined appearance.The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. It has since been demolished.

William L. Guy

William Lewis Guy (September 30, 1919 – April 26, 2013) was the governor of the U.S. state of North Dakota from 1961 to 1973. Guy was North Dakota's longest-serving governor in state history, serving two consecutive two-year terms and two four-year terms in office.

(since 1776)
Chargé d'Affaires
Minister Resident
Chargé d'Affaires
Minister Resident
Envoy Extraordinary and
Minister Plenipotentiary
Ambassador Extraordinary
and Plenipotentiary
Ambassador Extraordinary
and Plenipotentiary
Vice President
Secretary of State
Secretary of the Treasury
Secretary of Defense
Attorney General
Postmaster General
Secretary of the Interior
Secretary of Agriculture
Secretary of Commerce
Secretary of Labor
Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Secretary of Transportation
Republican Party
Democratic Party
American Independent Party

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