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David L. Lawrence

David L. Lawrence

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David Leo Lawrence was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 politician who served as the 37th Governor of Pennsylvania from 1959 to 1963. He is to date the only mayor of Pittsburgh to be elected Governor of Pennsylvania. Previously, he had been the mayor of Pittsburgh from 1946 through 1959. He was Pennsylvania's first Catholic
The word catholic comes from the Greek phrase , meaning "on the whole," "according to the whole" or "in general", and is a combination of the Greek words meaning "about" and meaning "whole"...


Early life

Lawrence was born into a working-class Irish-Catholic
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 family in the Golden Triangle neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh is the second-largest city in the US Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the county seat of Allegheny County. Regionally, it anchors the largest urban area of Appalachia and the Ohio River Valley, and nationally, it is the 22nd-largest urban area in the United States...

. Too poor to attend college, Lawrence instead took a job as a clerk for Pittsburgh attorney William Brennan, the chairman of the local Democratic party and a labor movement pioneer. Brennan became a personal friend and mentor to the teenage Lawrence.

Lawrence entered the insurance business in 1916. In 1918 he enlisted in the United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 to aid America’s efforts in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 serving as an officer in the adjutant general’s
Adjutant general
An Adjutant General is a military chief administrative officer.-Imperial Russia:In Imperial Russia, the General-Adjutant was a Court officer, who was usually an army general. He served as a personal aide to the Tsar and hence was a member of the H. I. M. Retinue...

 office in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

Pittsburgh politics

When he returned home from his army service in 1919, Lawrence was elected chairman of the Allegheny County
Allegheny County, Pennsylvania
Allegheny County is a county in the southwestern part of the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 census, the population was 1,223,348; making it the second most populous county in Pennsylvania, following Philadelphia County. The county seat is Pittsburgh...

 Democratic Party. At the time, Pittsburgh was a Republican bastion, with Democrats holding wide support only in the lower class and among recent immigrants. With the help of future Pennsylvania Senator Guffey, Lawrence led the rising Pennsylvania Democratic party that would soon dominate local and state-wide politics.

In 1931, Lawrence ran for Allegheny County Commissioner but lost. It was one of his last losses, as the effects of the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

 and a series of scandals rapidly eroded support for the Republican party in Pittsburgh. Two years later, he was appointed U.S. Collector of Internal Revenue for Western Pennsylvania by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1934, he helped elect George H. Earle as the first Democratic governor of Pennsylvania in the 20th century. Earle then appointed him as the Secretary of the Commonwealth. That same year, he became state chairman of the Democratic Party.

In 1945, Lawrence was elected mayor of Pittsburgh by a narrow margin. At the time, Pittsburgh was considered one of the most polluted
Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into a natural environment that causes instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to the ecosystem i.e. physical systems or living organisms. Pollution can take the form of chemical substances or energy, such as noise, heat or light...

 cities in America with smog
Smog is a type of air pollution; the word "smog" is a portmanteau of smoke and fog. Modern smog is a type of air pollution derived from vehicular emission from internal combustion engines and industrial fumes that react in the atmosphere with sunlight to form secondary pollutants that also combine...

 so thick that it was not unusual for streetlights to burn during the daytime. Lawrence developed a seven-point program for Pittsburgh during his first days in office, making him one of the first civic leaders to implement a dedicated urban renewal
Urban renewal
Urban renewal is a program of land redevelopment in areas of moderate to high density urban land use. Renewal has had both successes and failures. Its modern incarnation began in the late 19th century in developed nations and experienced an intense phase in the late 1940s – under the rubric of...

 plan. Republicans still controlled much of city politics and business at the time, so Lawrence had to forge bipartisan alliances to accomplish his objectives. His most famous partnership was with Richard K. Mellon, chairman of one of the largest banks in America and a staunch Republican. Despite their political differences, Mellon and Lawrence were both interested in the revival of Pittsburgh and both were early environmentalists. This partnership drove what came to be called the “Renaissance” (later Renaissance I) of Pittsburgh.

Pennsylvania politics

After an unprecedented four terms as mayor of Pittsburgh, Democrats drafted him to run for governor in 1958. He was initially reluctant. He cited his age (nearing 70) as a potential drawback. He eventually accepted his party’s nomination and narrowly defeated Reading
Reading, Pennsylvania
Reading is a city in southeastern Pennsylvania, USA, and seat of Berks County. Reading is the principal city of the Greater Reading Area and had a population of 88,082 as of the 2010 census, making it the fifth most populated city in the state after Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown and Erie,...

 businessman Arthur T. McGonigle to become Pennsylvania's 37th governor.

During his four-year term as governor, Lawrence passed anti-discrimination legislation, environmental protection
Environmental protection
Environmental protection is a practice of protecting the environment, on individual, organizational or governmental level, for the benefit of the natural environment and humans. Due to the pressures of population and our technology the biophysical environment is being degraded, sometimes permanently...

 laws, expanded Pennsylvania's library system, passed Pennsylvania's fair housing law, and advocated historic preservation
Historic preservation
Historic preservation is an endeavor that seeks to preserve, conserve and protect buildings, objects, landscapes or other artifacts of historical significance...

. He also passed vigorous highway safety legislation, a move some attribute to the fact that two of his sons were killed in an automobile accident. His expansion of state bureaucracies came at the price of budget deficits and tax increases, a move that angered many fiscal conservatives.

In 1960, Lawrence was among a group of political leaders who created the Finnegan Foundation
Finnegan Foundation
The James A. Finnegan Foundation was founded in 1960 and incorporated under Pennsylvania law as a 501 non-profit educational organization. It is governed by an independent Board of Directors, many of whom are Finnegan Alumni.-Founding:...

. The organization continues to name 3-6 Finnegan Fellows each year.

National politics

Lawrence had attended his first Democratic National Convention
Democratic National Convention
The Democratic National Convention is a series of presidential nominating conventions held every four years since 1832 by the United States Democratic Party. They have been administered by the Democratic National Committee since the 1852 national convention...

 as a page in 1912 and would attend every subsequent convention until his death. He was instrumental in the nominations of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932 and John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

 in 1960, and became known as the “maker of presidents”. In the weeks leading up to the 1948 Democratic National Convention
1948 Democratic National Convention
The 1948 Democratic National Convention was held at Convention Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from July 12 to July 14, and resulted in the nominations of incumbent Harry S Truman for President and U.S. Senator Alben W...

, Lawrence was one of the few urban bosses to support Harry S Truman's attempts to win the Presidential nomination.

Once the Convention began, however, Lawrence would surprise liberals and conservatives alike by shifting the Pennsylvania delegation away from the more tepid civil rights plank that the Administration preferred to a more aggressively liberal one. Lawrence is sometimes credited with convincing Kennedy to choose Lyndon Johnson as his running mate
Running mate
A running mate is a person running together with another person on a joint ticket during an election. The term is most often used in reference to the person in the subordinate position but can also properly be used when referring to both candidates, such as "Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen were...

 to balance the ticket and mend a rift between northern and southern Democrats.

Later life

Limited to one term under existing state law, Lawrence retired from elected office in 1963, but continued to stay active in Democratic politics and served the Kennedy and Johnson administrations as Chairman of the President's Committee on Equal Opportunities in Housing.http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=9544&st=pittsburgh&st1=#axzz1Y6b3dQSz


Lawrence fell ill and collapsed at a Pittsburgh campaign rally for gubernatorial candidate Milton Shapp
Milton Shapp
Milton Jerrold Shapp was the 40th Governor of the U.S. state of Pennsylvania from 1971 to 1979 and was the first Jewish governor of Pennsylvania.- Early life :...

 on November 4, 1966 and was rushed to a local hospital. He died 17 days later having never regained consciousness. He was 77 years old.

He is buried in Pittsburgh's Calvary Cemetery
Calvary Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Calvary Catholic Cemetery is located at 718 Hazelwood Avenue in the Greenfield and Hazelwood neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.It was founded in 1886 with the purchase of a 200-acre tract. The first official interment occurred in 1888, though there are graves with earlier dates. As of...



Buildings named in honor of Lawrence include The David L. Lawrence Convention Center
David L. Lawrence Convention Center
The David L. Lawrence Convention Center is a convention, conference and exhibition building in downtown Pittsburgh in the U.S. commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The initial David L...

 in Pittsburgh, the David Lawrence Hall of the University of Pittsburgh
University of Pittsburgh
The University of Pittsburgh, commonly referred to as Pitt, is a state-related research university located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States. Founded as Pittsburgh Academy in 1787 on what was then the American frontier, Pitt is one of the oldest continuously chartered institutions of...

, Lawrence Hall in the Governor's Quad at Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Indiana University of Pennsylvania is a public university in Indiana County, Pennsylvania, USA. The university is northeast of Pittsburgh. It is the largest university in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and is the commonwealth's fifth largest university...

, and Lawrence Hall of Point Park University
Point Park University
Point Park University is a liberal arts university located in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Formerly known as Point Park College, the school name was revised in 2004 to reflect the number of graduate programs being offered....

. Lawrence is also honored at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
Edinboro University is a public liberal arts university located in Edinboro, Pennsylvania, USA and one of 14 schools associated with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The town is named after Edinburgh, Scotland. It is also not to be confused with the University of Edinburgh...

, as it named two dormitories the Lawrence Towers. The David L. Lawrence Library, later the David L. Lawrence Administration Center, at La Salle University
La Salle University
La Salle University is a private, co-educational, Roman Catholic university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. Named for St. Jean-Baptiste de La Salle, the school was founded in 1863 by the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. As of 2008 the school has approximately 7,554...

 was dedicated by Vice President Hubert H. Humphery.

Electoral history

  • 1945 Race for Pittsburgh Mayor
    Pittsburgh mayoral election, 1945
    The Mayoral election of 1945 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was held on Tuesday, November 6, 1945. Incumbent Democratic Party Conn Scully chose not to seek reelection. State Democratic Party chairman and longtime Pittsburgh political player David Lawrence was elected to succeed him in what is the...

    • David Lawrence (D), 52%
    • Rob Waddell (R), 47%
  • 1949 Race for Pittsburgh Mayor
    Pittsburgh mayoral election, 1949
    The Mayoral election of 1949 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was held on Tuesday, November 8, 1949. David Lawrence of the Democratic Party was reelected to a second term. Despite commanding a powerful position within both local politics and the state party, Lawrence faced a major primary challenge...

    • David Lawrence (D), 60%
    • Tim Ryan (R), 39%
  • 1953 Race for Pittsburgh Mayor
    Pittsburgh mayoral election, 1953
    The Mayoral election of 1953 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was held on Tuesday, November 3, 1953. David Lawrence of the Democratic Party successfully won the right to serve a third term...

    • David Lawrence (D), 62%
    • Leo Kane (R), 37%
  • 1957 Race for Pittsburgh Mayor
    Pittsburgh mayoral election, 1957
    The Mayoral election of 1957 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was held on Tuesday, November 5, 1957. The incumbent mayor, David Lawrence of the Democratic Party won an unprecedented fourth term. Lawrence defeated former Court of Common Pleas Judge John Drew...

    • David Lawrence (D), 64%
    • John Drew (R), 35%
  • 1959 Race for Pennsylvania Governor
    • David Lawrence (D), 53%
    • Tom McGonigle (R), 46%

External links