Joe Moakley

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Joe Moakley
Chair of the House Rules Committee
In office
May 30, 1989 – January 3, 1995
Preceded byClaude Pepper
Succeeded byGerald Solomon
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 9th district
In office
January 3, 1973 – May 28, 2001
Preceded byLouise Day Hicks
Succeeded byStephen F. Lynch
Member of the
Massachusetts Senate
for the 4th Suffolk District
In office
Preceded byJohn E. Powers
Succeeded byWilliam M. Bulger
Member of the
Massachusetts House of Representatives
for the 7th Suffolk District
In office
Preceded byWilliam F. Carr
Succeeded byWilliam M. Bulger
Personal details
John Joseph Moakley

(1927-04-27)April 27, 1927
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedMay 28, 2001(2001-05-28) (aged 74)
Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Evelyn Duffy Moakley
EducationSuffolk University (LLB)
Military service
Branch/service United States Navy
Battles/warsWorld War II

John Joseph Moakley (April 27, 1927 – May 28, 2001) was an American politician who served as the United States Representative for Massachusetts's 9th congressional district from 1973 until his death in 2001. Moakley won the seat from incumbent Louise Day Hicks in a 1972 rematch; the seat had been held two years earlier by the retiring Speaker of the House John William McCormack. Moakley was the last Democratic chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Rules before Republicans took control of the chamber in 1995.

Early life and education[edit]

Moakley was born in South Boston, Massachusetts, April 27, 1927, and grew up in the Old Harbor public housing project. Lying about his age, he enlisted in the United States Navy during World War II and was involved in the Pacific War from 1943 to 1946.[1] After returning home, Moakley attended the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida from 1950 to 1951, and he received his LL.B. at Suffolk University Law School in Boston in 1956.


Moakley in 1953

In 1958, he partnered with his Suffolk classmate Daniel W. Healy and together they opened a law practice at 149A Dorchester Street in South Boston. They remained legal partners into the late-1970s.

Moakley was a member of the Portuguese American Civic Club located in Taunton, Massachusetts. Moakley served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1953 to 1963 and in the Massachusetts Senate from 1964 to 1970.[2] He was a delegate to the 1968 Democratic National Convention.[2] After the retirement of longtime Congressman John W. McCormack, Moakley ran for the Democratic nomination in the ninth district but lost to Boston School Committee chair Louise Day Hicks, who gained support based on her opposition to school desegregation.[1] He was a member of the Boston City Council from 1971 to 1973.[2]

In 1972, Moakley ran as an independent against Hicks and defeated her by 3,448 votes.[1] The day after he switched his party affiliation to the Democratic Party, Moakley was sworn in to Congress on January 3, 1973.[2] He was reelected 14 times, never facing substantive opposition. He only faced Republican challengers six times; the other times he was either completely unopposed or faced only minor-party opposition. In 2002, he posthumously received the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award for his unrelenting commitment to ending the war in El Salvador and throughout Central America, and for the compassionate care he gave his constituents in Massachusetts for nearly three decades.

He was succeeded in office by fellow Democrat Stephen Lynch.

Opposition to the legislative veto[edit]

Moakley was prominent in the opposition to the legislative veto, which became an increasingly popular device in the 1970s. He held up in committee a controversial bill proposed by Rep. Elliott Levitas that proposed to institute the legislative veto as a general feature of legislation. His position was vindicated when the Supreme Court held in INS v. Chadha (1983) that the legislative veto violated the bicameralism and presentment clauses of the U.S. Constitution.[3]

The Moakley Commission[edit]

Moakley led a special panel that investigated the 1989 deaths of six Jesuit priests and two women in El Salvador . The United States ended its military aid to El Salvador in part because of the Moakley Commission's report implicating several high-ranking Salvadoran military officials in the murders.[4] Moakley had a close relationship with Salvadoran activist Leonel Gómez Vides.[5][6]

Later career[edit]

Joe Moakley chaired the Committee on Rules from the 101st Congress through 103rd Congress.

Moakley managed to have a bridge in Boston named for his wife, Evelyn Moakley, after her death. The Evelyn Moakley Bridge is next to a U.S. Courthouse, which was subsequently named the John Joseph Moakley Federal Courthouse shortly before his death. Joe Moakley Park in South Boston is also named after him.[7]

Moakley's efforts led to the acquisition by Bridgewater State College (Bridgewater, MA) of a $10 million grant. The grant allowed the construction of the campus fiber network and a new regional telecommunications facility, which dramatically enhanced the teaching capabilities of the region's educational professionals. The John Joseph Moakley Center for Technological Applications in Bridgewater provides training in the use of technology for students, teachers, and members of the workforce. The three-story building houses a large computer lab, a television studio, an auditorium, and numerous classrooms.

Personal life[edit]

In 2001, Moakley announced that he would not be running for re-election for his 16th term in 2002, due to his ongoing battle with myelodysplastic syndrome. Moakley died on May 28, 2001, in Bethesda, Maryland.[1] His body was interred in Blue Hill Cemetery, Braintree, Massachusetts.[8] The Hematological Cancer Research Investment and Education Act, enacted in 2002, established the Joe Moakley Research Excellence Program for expanded and coordinated blood cancer research programs.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Feeney, Mark (May 28, 2001). "John Joseph Moakley dies at age 74". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on June 6, 2001. Retrieved December 2, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d "MOAKLEY, John Joseph, (1927 - 2001)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. United States Congress. Retrieved December 2, 2018.
  3. ^ Barbara Hickson Craig, Chadha: The Story of an Epic Constitutional Struggle (NY:Oxford University Press, 1988)
  4. ^ Stout, David (May 29, 2001). "Joe Moakley, Congressman From South Boston, Dies at 74". The New York Times.
  5. ^ Arene, Alberto (2019-11-21). "Recordando a Leonel Gómez Vides, en el décimo aniversario de su partida". Noticias de El Salvador - La Prensa Gráfica | Informate con la verdad (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2019-11-21. Retrieved 2021-04-19.
  6. ^ Bower, Beth (2007). "Student Delegation Traces Moakley's Visit to El Salvador" (PDF). Moakley Archive Newsletter.
  7. ^ "The Vision Plan for Boston's Moakley Park". National Recreation and Park Association. April 5, 2019.
  8. ^ "Joe Moakley". Find a Grave. Retrieved October 18, 2010.
  9. ^ "Legislative Updates: Hematological Cancer Research Investment and Education Act of 2001". Office of Legislative Policy and Analysis. Archived from the original on June 26, 2009. Retrieved June 24, 2009.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Louise Day Hicks
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 9th congressional district

January 3, 1973 – May 28, 2001
Succeeded by
Stephen F. Lynch
Political offices
Preceded by
Claude Pepper
Chairman of House Rules Committee
Succeeded by
Gerald B. H. Solomon
New York