JOHN A. VOLPE was born in Wakefield, Massachusetts on December 8, 1908. He served in the U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps from 1943-45, retiring with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. After attending Wentworth Institute in Boston, where he majored in architectural construction, Volpe started a construction company serving as its president and chairman from 1930 to 1969. He entered politics as deputy chairman of the Massachusetts Republican State Committee and received his first major public appointment in 1953, as commissioner of public works. In 1956 President Eisenhower appointed him as the first Federal Highway Administrator, and he was elected Governor of Massachusetts in 1960 for a two-year term. Governor Volpe advocated ethics regulations, which required legislators to disclose conflicts of interest involving companies doing business with the Commonwealth. Additionally, he called for campaign finance reporting and established the financial autonomy of the University of Massachusetts. After losing by a narrow margin in 1962, Volpe returned to the governor’s office in 1964 and in 1966 he was reelected for the first four-year term in Massachusetts.-During his tenure, Governor Volpe served on the National Governors’ Conference Executive Committee (1962, 1965-1968). He served as the association’s chairman in 1967-1968. Governor Volpe signed legislation to ban racial imbalances in education, reorganized the state’s Board of Education, liberalized birth control laws, and increased public housing for low-income families. Governor Volpe also raised revenues by increasing the state sales tax to 3 percent. Volpe resigned midterm in 1969 to accept President Nixon’s appointment to head the Department of Transportation. Volpe’s best-known legislative accomplishment was the implementation of a concept that had long been the norm in Europe but was politically unpopular in the United States: a government-subsidized passenger rail system, which became Amtrak. He served as the U.S. Ambassador to Italy from 1973-77. He passed away on September 11, 1994.
Governors of the American States, Commonwealths and Territories, National Governors' Conference, 1968.