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.
Moakley was born in South Boston, Massachusetts, April 27, 1927 and grew up in that neighborhood’s 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 War in the Pacific from 1943 to 1946. 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. 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, MAMassachusetts House of Representatives from 1953 to 1963 and a member of the Massachusetts Senate from 1964 to 1970. He was a delegate to the 1968 Democratic National Convention. 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. He was a member of the Boston City Council from 1971 to 1973.
In 1972, however, Moakley ran as an independent against Hicks and defeated her by 3,448 votes. The day after he switched his party affiliation to the Democratic Party, Moakley was sworn in to Congress on January 3, 1973. 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.
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. His body was interred in Blue Hill Cemetery, Braintree, Massachusetts. The Hematological Cancer Research Investment and Education Act, enacted in 2002, establishes the Joe Moakley Research Excellence Program for expanded and coordinated blood cancer research programs. He was succeeded in office by fellow Democrat Stephen Lynch.
Opposition to the legislative veto
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.
The Moakley Commission
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.
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.
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 enhances the teaching capability of the region’s educational professionals and promotes the growth of the region’s economy. The John Joseph Moakley Center for Technological Applications 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. The current president of Bridgewater State University, Fred Clark, is a former staff member of Moakley’s congressional office.
- 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.
- “MOAKLEY, John Joseph, (1927 – 2001)”. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. United States Congress. Retrieved December 2, 2018.
- “Joe Moakley”. Find a Grave. Retrieved October 18, 2010.
- “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.
- Barbara Hickson Craig, Chadha: The Story of an Epic Constitutional Struggle (NY:Oxford University Press, 1988)
- Stout, David (May 29, 2001). “Joe Moakley, Congressman From South Boston, Dies at 74”. The New York Times.
- “The Vision Plan for Boston’s Moakley Park”. National Recreation and Park Association. April 5, 2019.
- John Joseph Moakley Archive and Institute at Suffolk University
- Congressman John Joseph Moakley Papers
- Congressman John Joseph Moakley Oral History Project
- The John Joseph Moakley Charitable Foundation
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Joe Moakley and MDS at about.com
- John Joseph Moakley Center at Bridgewater State College.
|U.S. House of Representatives|
Louise Day Hicks
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts’s 9th congressional district
January 3, 1973 – May 28, 2001
Stephen F. Lynch
| Chairman of House Rules Committee
Gerald B. H. Solomon