Senator Patrick Leahy

Senator John Pastore
John Pastore, was born in Rhode Island. The first Italian American elected to the United States Senate in 1950.

Destined to become a leading statesman of his time John O. Pastore (1907-2000) was born in Federal Hill, the Little Italy of Providence, Rhode Island. Like many others in the ethnic enclave, his parents came from Potenza, Italy. The Pastore family was to experience hardship when his father died, causing nine year old John to go to work after school to help support his mother, who worked as a seamstress, and younger siblings. Finding it difficult to attend an Ivy League college upon graduation from high school because of limited finances, John obtained a degree from Northeastern University, completed law school and began a law practice in Providence in 1931. An active Democrat, he was elected to the Rhode Island Assembly in 1934, launching a career that made him the most popular Italian American politician in the state.

In 1944 he left the appointive position of state assistant attorney general to run and to win the post of lieutenant governor, thereby becoming the first of his nationality to win statewide elective office in Rhode Island. When the governor of Rhode Island resigned his office for a federal position in October 1945, thirty-eight year old John Pastore assumed the office of governor, a post to which he was re-elected twice. Pastore's election success reflects on the one hand, the talents of an intelligent, friendly personality and the coming of age of Italian Americans in the state -the largest ethnic group in Rhode Island. In 1950 Pastore won a landslide victory to the United States Senate -the first Italian American to become a member of that body. Although his first senate election was to complete two years of an un-expired term, Pastore was re-elected in 1952, 1958, 1964, and 1970. Among the highlights of his legislative achievements were the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1969, the Public Broadcasting Act of 1969, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

John Pastore was also noted for his eloquent oratory, his special talent was to enthuse an audience with stirring flourishes reminiscent of the great speakers in Senate history. This ability was vividly evident at the 1964 Democratic National Convention where his performance as keynote speaker brought him deserved national attention. His peroration on that occasion was a forceful and inspiring demonstration worthy of a great stentorian legacy that impressed the common and the influential alike. The diminutive senator thus helped Lyndon B. Johnson kick off a winning campaign. Successor Italian American senators -Pete Domenici, Dennis DeConcini, Alfonse D'Amato, Patrick Leahy, Rick Santorum, Mike Enzi, Mary Landrieu, John Ensign and Robert Torricelli, would undoubtedly concur with Domenici who likened his father's emigration to that of Pastore’s father. "They came, because they knew that America was a place where the humblest person could rise to great heights."

Senator Alfonse D'Amato
Senator Pete Domenici
Senator Mike Enzi
Senator Mary Landrieu
Senator Rick Santorum
Senator Robert Torricelli

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