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William Smith Flynn
Rhode Island

Gov. William Smith Flynn

  • January 2, 1923 - January 6, 1925
  • Democratic
  • August 14, 1885
  • March 4, 1965
  • Rhode Island
  • College of the Holy Cross; Georgetown University School of Law
  • Married Virginia W. Goodwin


Born in Providence, Rhode Island, WILLIAM SMITH FLYNN graduated from the College of Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1907 and Georgetown University Law School in 1910, going on to practice law in Providence. He was a Rhode Island state Representative from 1912 to 1923, serving as Deputy Floor Leader from 1917 to 1918 and Floor Leader from 1919 to 1922. Due to a split within the Republican Party, Flynn as a Democrat was able to defeat the GOP nominee for governor in the election of 1922. During his single two-year term, young Democrats in the state legislature used filibustering to hold up the legislative process in an effort to win the support of older Republican members for a Constitutional Convention. The legislative showdown even became violent, with Republican members fleeing across state lines, but Flynn refused to invoke his authority to call out the National Guard. He was the Democratic Party nominee for the U.S. Senate in 1924 but with the Republican Party rift now mended, he lost to his Republican opponent. After leaving the governorship, Flynn chaired the advisory board for the Public Works Administration from 1933 to 1934, was the division director for Providence Civilian Defense during World War II, and served as a trustee of several Rhode Island hospitals.


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

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.

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