List of governors of Massachusetts

Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Seal of the Governor
Flag of the Governor
His Excellency
Term length Four years, no term limit
Inaugural holder John Hancock
Formation October 25, 1780
Website Office of the Governor

The Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the executive magistrate of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, United States. The current Governor is Democrat Deval Patrick. The next election will be 2014, which will select a new governor as the incumbent Deval Patrick has stated that he will not seek re-election after his current term.

Constitutional role

Part the Second, Chapter II, Section I, Article I of the Massachusetts Constitution reads,

There shall be a supreme executive magistrate, who shall be styled, The Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; and whose title shall be – His Excellency.

The Governor of Massachusetts is the chief executive of the Commonwealth, and is supported by a number of subordinate officers. He, like most other state officers, senators, and representatives, was originally elected annually. In 1918 this was changed to a two-year term, and since 1966 the office of Governor has carried a four-year term. The Governor of Massachusetts does not receive a palace, other official residence, or housing allowance. Instead, he resides in his own private residence. The title "His Excellency" is a throwback to the royally appointed Governors of the Province of Massachusetts Bay. The first Governor to use the title was Richard Coote, 1st Earl of Bellomont in 1699; since he was an Earl, it was thought proper to call him "Your Excellency." The title was retained until 1742, when an order from King George II forbade its further use. However, the framers of the state constitution revived it because they found it fitting to dignify the Governor with this title.[1]

The Governor also serves as Commander-in-Chief of the Commonwealth's armed forces. The power of this position has declined as the states of the United States are not individual nations and are actually subnational units.


According to the state constitution, whenever the chair of the Governor is vacant, the Lieutenant Governor shall take over as acting Governor. The first time this came into use was five years after the constitution's adoption in 1785, when Governor John Hancock resigned the post, leaving Lieutenant Governor Thomas Cushing as acting Governor. Most recently, Jane Swift became acting Governor upon the resignation of Paul Cellucci. Under this system, the Lieutenant Governor retains his or her position and title as "Lieutenant Governor" and never becomes Governor; only acting Governor.

The Lieutenant Governor, when acting as Governor, is referred to as "the Lieutenant-Governor, acting governor" in official documents. An example of this is found in Chapter 45 of the Acts of 2001, where a veto by Swift was overridden by the General Court:

House of Representatives, July 2, 2001.
This Bill having been returned by the Lieutenant-Governor, Acting Governor with her objections thereto in writing (see House 4281) has been passed by the House of Representatives, notwithstanding said objections, two-thirds of the House (137 yeas to 15 nays) having agreed to pass the same.
Sent to the Senate for its action. Salvatore F. DiMasi, Acting Speaker. Steven T. James, Clerk. Senate, July 12, 2001.
Passed by the Senate, notwithstanding the objections of the Lieutenant-Governor, Acting Governor, two-thirds of the members present (37 yeas to 1 nay) having approved the same.
Linda J. Melconian, Acting President. Patrick F. Scanlan, Clerk.
Approved November 1, 2001.

The Massachusetts constitution does not use the term "acting governor". All modern constitutions have rejected such language. The Massachusetts courts have found, without rejecting the term, that the full authority of the office of the Governor devolves to the Lieutenant Governor upon vacancy in the office of Governor, i.e., there is no circumstance short of death, resignation, or impeachment that would relieve the "acting governor" from the full responsibilities of being the Governor.

When the constitution was first adopted, the Governor's Council was charged with acting as Governor in the event that both the Governorship and Lieutenant Governorship were vacant. This occurred in 1799 when Governor Increase Sumner died in office on June 7, 1799, leaving Lieutenant Governor Moses Gill as acting governor. Acting Governor Gill never received a lieutenant, and died himself on May 20, 1800, between that year's election and the inauguration of the victor, Caleb Strong. The Governor's Council consequently served as the executive for ten days; the council's chair, Thomas Dawes, was the closest person to Governorship during this time, but was at no point named Governor or acting Governor.

Article LV of the Constitution, enacted in 1918, created a new line of succession that did not entrust the Governorship to an eight-member council, instead creating a succession line involving all of the major constitutional offices.

The new and current line of succession is as follows:


The Governor has a 10-person cabinet, each of whom oversees a portion of the government under direct administration (as opposed to independent executive agencies). See Government of Massachusetts for a complete listing.


When the Governor dies, resigns, or is removed from office, the office of Governor remains vacant for the rest of the 4-year term. The Lieutenant Governor does not succeed but only discharges powers and duties as acting Governor. However, if a vacancy in the office of Governor continues for six months, and the six months expire more than five months before the next regular biennial state election midway through the Governor's term, a special election is held at that time to fill the vacancy for the balance of the unexpired four-year term.[2]

The front doors of the state house are only opened when a Governor leaves office or a head of state comes to visit the State House, or for the return of flags from Massachusetts regiments at the end of wars. The tradition of the ceremonial door originated when departing Governor Benjamin Butler kicked open the front door and walked out by himself in 1884.

Incoming Governors usually choose at least one past Governor's portrait to hang in their office.

Immediately before being sworn into office, the Governor-elect receives four symbols from the departing Governor: the ceremonial pewter "Key" for the Governor's office door, the Butler Bible, the "Gavel", and a two-volume set of the Massachusetts General Statutes with a personal note from the departing Governor to his/her successor added to the back of the text. The Governor-elect is then escorted by the Sergeant-at-Arms to the House Chamber and sworn in by the Senate President before a joint session of the House and Senate.[3]

Lone walk

Upon completion of their term, the departing Governor takes a "lone walk" down the Grand Staircase, through the House of Flags, into Doric Hall, out the central doors and down the steps of the Massachusetts State House. Benjamin Butler started the tradition in 1884.[4] Some walks have been modified with some past Governors having their wives, friends or staff accompany them.[5] A 19-gun salute is offered during the walk and frequently the steps are lined by the outgoing Governor's friends and supporters.[6]

In January 1991, outgoing Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Murphy, the first woman elected to statewide office in Massachusetts, walked down the stairs before Governor Michael Dukakis. In a break from tradition, the January 2007 inauguration of Governor Deval Patrick took place the day after outgoing Governor Mitt Romney took the lone walk down the front steps.[6]

Governor's residence

Despite several proposals for establishing an official residence for the Governor of Massachusetts, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts does not have a Governor's Mansion.

In 1955, Governor Foster Furcolo turned down a proposal to establish the Shirley-Eustis House in Roxbury, built by royal Governor William Shirley, as the official residence.[7]

At one time, Governor John A. Volpe accepted the donation of the Endicott Estate in Dedham from the heirs of Henry Bradford Endicott. He intended to renovate the 19th-century mansion into a splendid Governor's residence.[8] After Volpe resigned to become Secretary of Transportation in the Nixon Administration, the plan was aborted by his successor in consideration of budgetary constraints and because the location was considered too far from the seat of power, the State House in Boston.

Prior to their early-20th century demolitions, the Province House and the Hancock Manor[8] were also proposed as official residences.

Since the Governor has no official residence, the expression "corner office," rather than "Governor's mansion," is commonly used in the press as a figure of speech for the office of Governor.

List of Governors

The Seal and Flag of the Governor of Massachusetts

Since 1780, 65 people have been elected governor, six to non-consecutive terms, and seven lieutenant governors have acted as governor without subsequently being elected governor. Prior to 1918 constitutional reforms, both the governor's office and that of lieutenant governor were vacant on one occasion, when the state was governed by the Governor's Council.

Colonial Massachusetts

The colonial history of Massachusetts begins with the founding first of the Plymouth Colony in 1620, and then the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1628. The Dominion of New England combined these and other New England colonies into a single unit in 1686, but collapsed in 1689. In 1692 the Province of Massachusetts Bay was established, merging Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay, which then included the territory of present-day Maine.

Colonial governors of Plymouth and the Massachusetts Bay Colony were elected annually by a limited subset of the male population (known as freemen), while Dominion officials and those of the 1692 province were appointed by the British crown. In 1774 General Thomas Gage became the last royally appointed governor of Massachusetts. He was recalled to England after the Battle of Bunker Hill in June 1775, by which time the Massachusetts Provincial Congress exercised de facto control of Massachusetts territory outside British-occupied Boston. Between 1775 and the establishment of the Massachusetts State Constitution in 1780 the state was governed by the provincial congress and an executive council.

Commonwealth of Massachusetts: 1780–present

In the table below, acting governors are denoted in the leftmost column by the letter "A", and are not counted as actual governors. The longest-serving governor was Michael Dukakis, who served twelve years in office, although they were not all consecutive. The longest period of uninterrupted service by any governor was nine years, by Levi Lincoln, Jr. The shortest service period by an elected governor was one year, achieved by several 19th century governors. Increase Sumner, elected by a landslide to a third consecutive term in 1799, was on his deathbed and died not long after taking the oath of office; this represents the shortest part of an individual term served by a governor. Sumner was one of four governors to die in office; seven governors resigned, most of them to assume another office.

Political Party Number of Governors
Democratic 19
Democratic-Republican 6
Federalist 3
Know Nothing 1
National Republican 1
No party affiliation 6
Republican 31
Whig 7
# Governor Party Years Lt. Governor Electoral history
1 John Hancock None October 25, 1780 –
February 17, 1785
Thomas Cushing
Resigned due to claimed illness (recurring gout).
A[9] Thomas Cushing February 17, 1785 –
May 27, 1785
Lost election in his own right
2 James Bowdoin May 27, 1785 –
May 30, 1787
Lost re-election
3 John Hancock May 30, 1787 –
October 8, 1793
Benjamin Lincoln
Samuel Adams
4 Samuel Adams October 8, 1793 –
June 2, 1797
Moses Gill
5 Increase Sumner Federalist June 2, 1797 –
June 7, 1799
A[9] Moses Gill None June 7, 1799 –
May 20, 1800
A[9] Governor's Council May 20, 1800 –
May 30, 1800
None [10]
6 Caleb Strong Federalist May 30, 1800 –
May 29, 1807
Samuel Phillips, Jr.
Lost re-election
Edward Robbins
7 James Sullivan Democratic-
May 29, 1807 –
December 10, 1808
Levi Lincoln, Sr. Died
A[9] Levi Lincoln, Sr. Democratic-
December 10, 1808 –
May 1, 1809
Lost election in his own right
8 Christopher Gore Federalist May 1, 1809 –
June 10, 1810
David Cobb Lost re-election
9 Elbridge Gerry Democratic-
June 10, 1810 –
March 4, 1812
William Gray Lost re-election
10 Caleb Strong Federalist March 4, 1812 –
May 30, 1816
William Phillips, Jr. Retired
11 John Brooks Federalist May 30, 1816 –
May 31, 1823
12 William Eustis Democratic-
May 31, 1823 –
February 6, 1825
Levi Lincoln, Jr.
Marcus Morton
A[9] Marcus Morton Democratic-
February 6, 1825 –
May 26, 1825
Lost nomination
13 Levi Lincoln, Jr. National
May 26, 1825 –
January 9, 1834
Thomas L. Winthrop
14 John Davis Whig January 9, 1834 –
March 1, 1835
Samuel Turell Armstrong Resigned to become US Senator
A[9] Samuel Turell Armstrong Whig March 1, 1835 –
January 13, 1836
Lost nomination; lost election as independent
15 Edward Everett Whig January 13, 1836 –
January 18, 1840
George Hull Lost re-election
16 Marcus Morton Democratic January 18, 1840 –
January 7, 1841
Lost re-election
17 John Davis Whig January 7, 1841 –
January 17, 1843
Lost re-election
18 Marcus Morton Democratic January 17, 1843 –
January 1844
Henry H. Childs Lost re-election
19 George N. Briggs Whig January 1844 –
January 11, 1851
John Reed, Jr. Lost re-election
20 George S. Boutwell Democratic January 11, 1851 –
January 14, 1853
Henry W. Cushman Did not run for reelection, left Democratic party over slavery, helped organize Republican party
21 John H. Clifford Whig January 14, 1853 –
January 12, 1854
Elisha Huntington Retired
22 Emory Washburn Whig January 12, 1854 –
January 4, 1855
William C. Plunkett Lost re-election
23 Henry Gardner Know-Nothing January 4, 1855 –
January 7, 1858
Simon Brown
Lost re-election
Henry W. Benchley
24 Nathaniel Prentice Banks Republican January 7, 1858 –
January 3, 1861
Eliphalet Trask Retired to run for president
25 John Albion Andrew Republican January 3, 1861 –
January 4, 1866
John Z. Goodrich
John Nesmith
Joel Hayden
26 Alexander H. Bullock Republican January 4, 1866 –
January 7, 1869
William Claflin Retired
27 William Claflin Republican January 7, 1869 –
January 4, 1872
Joseph Tucker
28 William B. Washburn Republican January 4, 1872 –
April 29, 1874
Resigned to become US Senator
Thomas Talbot
A[9] Thomas Talbot Republican April 29, 1874 –
January 7, 1875
Lost election in his own right
29 William Gaston Democratic January 7, 1875 –
January 6, 1876
Horatio G. Knight Lost re-election
30 Alexander H. Rice Republican January 6, 1876 –
January 2, 1879
31 Thomas Talbot Republican January 2, 1879 –
January 8, 1880
John Davis Long Retired
32 John Davis Long Republican January 8, 1880 –
January 4, 1883
Byron Weston Not a candidate for reelection to 4th term
33 Benjamin F. Butler Democratic January 4, 1883 –
January 3, 1884
Oliver Ames Lost re-election
34 George D. Robinson Republican January 3, 1884 –
January 6, 1887
Not a candidate for reelection to 4th term, unsuccessful candidate for U.S. Senate
35 Oliver Ames Republican January 6, 1887 –
January 7, 1890
John Q. A. Brackett Not a candidate for reelection to 4th term
36 John Q. A. Brackett Republican January 7, 1890 –
January 8, 1891
William H. Haile
Lost re-election
37 William E. Russell Democratic January 8, 1891 –
January 4, 1894
Not a candidate for reelection to 4th term
Roger Wolcott
38 Frederic T. Greenhalge Republican January 4, 1894 –
March 5, 1896
39 Roger Wolcott Republican March 5, 1896 –
January 4, 1900
Not a candidate for reelection to 3rd full term
Winthrop Murray Crane
40 Winthrop Murray Crane Republican January 4, 1900 –
January 8, 1903
John L. Bates Not a candidate for reelection to 4th Term
41 John L. Bates Republican January 8, 1903 –
January 5, 1905
Curtis Guild, Jr. Lost reelection for 3rd term
42 William L. Douglas Democratic January 5, 1905 –
January 4, 1906
Not a candidate for reelection
43 Curtis Guild, Jr. Republican January 4, 1906 –
January 7, 1909
Eben Sumner Draper Not a candidate for reelection to 4th term
44 Eben Sumner Draper Republican January 7, 1909 –
January 5, 1911
Louis A. Frothingham Lost re-election
45 Eugene Noble Foss Democratic January 5, 1911 –
January 8, 1914
Louis A. Frothingham
Did not stand for renomination as Democrat; defeated as independent in general election
Robert Luce
David I. Walsh
46 David I. Walsh Democratic January 8, 1914 –
January 6, 1916
Edward P. Barry
Lost re-election
Grafton D. Cushing
47 Samuel W. McCall Republican January 6, 1916 –
January 2, 1919
Calvin Coolidge Retired
48 Calvin Coolidge Republican January 2, 1919 –
January 6, 1921
Channing H. Cox Retired to run successfully for U.S. Vice President
49 Channing H. Cox Republican January 6, 1921 –
January 8, 1925
Alvan T. Fuller Not a candidate for reelection to 3rd term
50 Alvan T. Fuller Republican January 8, 1925 –
January 3, 1929
Frank G. Allen Not a candidate for reelection to 3rd term
51 Frank G. Allen Republican January 3, 1929 –
January 8, 1931
William S. Youngman Lost re-election
52 Joseph B. Ely Democratic January 8, 1931 –
January 3, 1935
William S. Youngman
Gaspar G. Bacon
53 James Michael Curley Democratic January 3, 1935 –
January 7, 1937
Joseph L. Hurley Retired to run for U.S. Senate
54 Charles F. Hurley Democratic January 7, 1937 –
January 5, 1939
Francis E. Kelly Lost renomination
55 Leverett Saltonstall Republican January 5, 1939 –
January 3, 1945
Maurice J. Tobin Retired to run for U.S. Senate
56 Maurice J. Tobin Democratic January 3, 1945 –
January 2, 1947
Robert F. Bradford Lost re-election
57 Robert F. Bradford Republican January 2, 1947 –
January 6, 1949
Arthur W. Coolidge Lost re-election
58 Paul A. Dever Democratic January 6, 1949 –
January 8, 1953
Charles F. Sullivan Lost re-election
59 Christian A. Herter Republican January 8, 1953 –
January 3, 1957
Sumner G. Whittier Retired, appointed U.S. Under Secretary of State.
60 Foster Furcolo Democratic January 3, 1957 –
January 5, 1961
Robert F. Murphy
Retired to run for U.S. Senate
61 John A. Volpe Republican January 5, 1961 –
January 3, 1963
Edward F. McLaughlin, Jr. Lost re-election
62 Endicott Peabody Democratic January 3, 1963 –
January 7, 1965
Francis X. Bellotti Lost renomination
63 John A. Volpe Republican January 7, 1965 –
January 22, 1969
Elliot Richardson
Resigned to become U.S. Secretary of Transportation
Francis W. Sargent
64 Francis W. Sargent Republican January 22, 1969 –
January 2, 1975
Acted as governor for the remainder of Volpe's term, and was then elected governor
Donald R. Dwight
65 Michael Dukakis Democratic January 2, 1975 –
January 4, 1979
Thomas P. O'Neill III Lost renomination
66 Edward J. King Democratic January 4, 1979 –
January 6, 1983
Lost renomination
67 Michael Dukakis Democratic January 6, 1983 –
January 3, 1991
John Kerry
Evelyn Murphy
68 William F. Weld Republican January 3, 1991 –
July 29, 1997
Paul Cellucci
First elected in 1990
Re-elected in 1994
Resigned when nominated U.S. Ambassador to Mexico but was not confirmed by the US Senate to the office.
69 Paul Cellucci Republican July 29, 1997 –
April 10, 2001
Acted as governor for the remainder of Weld's term, and was then elected governor
Resigned to become U.S. Ambassador to Canada
Jane Swift
A[9] Jane Swift Republican April 10, 2001 –
January 2, 2003
70 Mitt Romney Republican January 2, 2003 –
January 4, 2007
Kerry Healey Elected in 2002
71 Deval Patrick Democratic January 4, 2007 –
Tim Murray
Elected in 2006
Re-elected in 2010
Intends to retire after two terms.

Other high offices held

This is a table of congressional and other federal offices held by governors. All representatives and senators mentioned represented Massachusetts.

Name Gubernatorial term U.S. Congress Other offices held
House Senate
John Hancock 1787–1793, 1780–1785 Delegate to the Continental Congress (including twice as President of the Continental Congress)
Thomas Cushing 1785 (acting) Delegate to the Continental Congress
Samuel Adams 1793–1797 Delegate to the Continental Congress
Caleb Strong 1800–1807, 1812–1816 Green tickY Delegate to the Continental Congress
James Sullivan 1807–1808 Delegate to the Continental Congress, but did not attend
Levi Lincoln, Sr. 1808–1809 (acting) Green tickY U.S. Attorney General
Christopher Gore 1813–1816 Green tickY
Elbridge Gerry 1810–1812 Green tickY Delegate to the Continental Congress, Vice President of the United States
William Eustis 1823–1825 Green tickY Ambassador to the Netherlands, U.S. Secretary of War
Marcus Morton 1825 (acting), 1840–1841, 1843–1844 Green tickY
Levi Lincoln, Jr. 1825–1834 Green tickY
John Davis 1834–1835, 1841–1843 Green tickY Green tickY[lower-alpha 1]
Edward Everett 1836–1840 Green tickY Green tickY Ambassador to Great Britain, U.S. Secretary of State
George N. Briggs 1844–1851 Green tickY
George S. Boutwell 1851–1853 Green tickY Green tickY U.S. Secretary of the Treasury
Nathaniel Prentice Banks 1858–1861 Green tickY Speaker of the House
William B. Washburn 1874–1874 Green tickY Green tickY[lower-alpha 1]
Alexander H. Rice 1876–1879 Green tickY
John Davis Long 1880–1883 Green tickY U.S. Secretary of the Navy
Benjamin Franklin Butler 1883–1884 Green tickY
George D. Robinson 1884–1887 Green tickY
Frederic T. Greenhalge 1894–1896 Green tickY
Winthrop Murray Crane 1900–1903 Green tickY
Eugene Noble Foss 1911–1914 Green tickY
David I. Walsh 1914–1916 Green tickY
Samuel W. McCall 1916–1919 Green tickY
Calvin Coolidge 1919–1921 Vice President of the United States, President of the United States
Alvan T. Fuller 1925–1929 Green tickY
James Michael Curley 1935–1937 Green tickY
Leverett Saltonstall 1939–1945 Green tickY
Maurice J. Tobin 1945–1947 U.S. Secretary of Labor
Christian A. Herter 1953–1957 Green tickY U.S. Secretary of State, U.S. Trade Representative
Foster Furcolo 1957–1961 Green tickY
John A. Volpe 1961–1963, 1965–1969 U.S. Secretary of Transportation[lower-alpha 1], Ambassador to Italy
Paul Cellucci 1997–2001 Ambassador to Canada[lower-alpha 1]

Living former governors

As of June 2013, four former and acting governors were alive, the oldest being Michael Dukakis (1975–1979, 1983–1991, born 1933). The most recent governor to die was Paul Cellucci (1997-2001), on June 8, 2013.[11]

Name Term(s) Date of birth (and age)
Michael Dukakis 1975–1979, 1983–1991 (1933-11-03) November 3, 1933 (age 80)
William F. Weld 1991–1997 (1945-07-31) July 31, 1945 (age 68)
Jane Swift 2001–2003 (acting) (1965-02-24) February 24, 1965 (age 49)
Mitt Romney 2003–2007 (1947-03-12) March 12, 1947 (age 67)

See also


External links

  • Office of the Governor
  • 2006 election results

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