FRANK LICHT was born in Providence, Rhode Island and received a bachelor’s degree from Brown University in 1938 and an LL.B. from Harvard Law School in 1941. After being admitted to the Rhode Island Bar, he clerked for a member of the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston. He later became a partner in the Providence law firm of Letts & Quinn. He served as a state Senator from 1949 to 1956 and then a judge on the state Superior Court prior to running for governor. Despite winning election on a platform that opposed the imposition of a state income tax, Licht ultimately introduced such a tax on a temporary basis and made it permanent shortly thereafter. Licht also created the Rhode Island Industrial Building Authority, designed to guarantee mortgages or new manufacturing plants, and established the nation’s first statewide job skills bank. Licht also promoted legislation to permit selection of delegates to presidential conventions by direct public vote, and he created a Board of Regents to oversee public education and two new social services departments: the Department of Social Rehabilitation Services and the Department of Mental Health, Retardation, and Hospitals. Having had considerable experience with the legal system, he initiated state- and federally-funded criminal rehabilitation programs, established youth services bureaus to help keep young people out of trouble, enacted legislation giving courts the option to commit drug users to specialized rehabilitative programs rather than penal institutions, created a fifteen-member Drug Abuse Control Council to advise the governor and legislature in the field of drug addiction and rehabilitation, and reorganized the District Court system. A strong defender of the environment, he sought to expand anti-air pollution and anti-water pollution legislation while granting tax relief to businesses that incorporated modern pollution control systems into their operations. The Licht administration also revitalized the New England Water Pollution Control Commission, regulated the use of pesticides, and created an eleven-member Governor’s Council on Environmental Quality. After leaving office, Licht returned to the practice of law.
Governors of the American States, Commonwealths, and Territories, National Governors'Conference, 1972.
La France, August P. Manual with Rules and Orders for the use of the General Assembly of the State of Rhode Island, 1969-1970.
The Political Graveyard
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
University of Rhode Island, Special Collections