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Robert Emmet Quinn
Rhode Island

Gov. Robert Emmet Quinn

  • January 5, 1937 - January 3, 1939
  • Democratic
  • April 2, 1894
  • May 19, 1975
  • Rhode Island
  • Brown University; Harvard University Law School
  • Married Mary I. Carter; five children
  • Army, Navy


A native of West Warwick, Rhode Island, ROBERT EMMET QUINN graduated from Brown University in 1915 and from Harvard University Law School in 1918. He was a member of the U.S. Intelligence Service in England and France during the first world war. In addition to practicing law, he served for several nonconsecutive terms as a Rhode Island state Senator. After running unsuccessfully for Lieutenant Governor in 1924, he won election in 1932, holding the position until 1937. While serving as Lieutenant Governor, he appointed a committee to recount ballots from the election of 1934 out of concern that returns from three Republican districts might be fraudulent. The result was the election of Democrats in place of Republicans, with the Democratic Party regaining control of the state Senate and reorganizing Rhode Island government in what became known as the “bloodless revolution.” Quinn went on to be nominated for governor when incumbent Governor Francis Green chose to run for a seat in the U.S. Senate. As governor, Quinn advocated a merit system for state workers, a personal income tax, and exemption for the poor from real estate taxes. After being defeated for reelection to a second term, he returned to his law practice and won appointment to a Superior Court judgeship in 1941. However, when the U.S. entered World War II a few months later, he entered the military as a Commander in the Navy’s legal branch, where he served for four years, rising to the rank of Captain. He returned to the bench after World War II ended and in 1951 was named Chief Judge of a new U.S. Court of Military Appeals, a position from which he retired in 1975. Quinn’s civic and community service included President of the American Bar Association and trustee of Kent County Hospital in Warwick, Rhode Island.


Mohr, Ralph S. Governors for Three Hundred Years (1638-1954): Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.State of Rhode Island, Graves Registration Committee, August 1954.

Providence College, Archives and special Collections

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.

Who Was Who, Vol. 6. Kingsport, TN: Marquis Who’s Who, 1976.

Recent Rhode Island Governors