Conte, Silvio O.

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Silvio O. Conte, 1973

  • 1921: Born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts on November 9th to Ottavio and Lucia (Lora) Conte.
  • 1940: Following graduation from Pittsfield Vocational High School worked for a time as a machinist at General Electric Co. and later in the press room of the Berkshire Eagle.
  • 1942: Enlisted in the Navy and served from 1942 to 1944 with the Seabees in the Southwest Pacific during World War II.
  • 1947: Married the former Corinne Duval on November 8th.
  • 1949: Graduated from Boston College Law School in June.
  • 1950: In November was elected to the Massachusetts State Senate for the first of four successive terms. Served on the Committees of Judiciary, Public Welfare, Towns and Juvenile Delinquency. Was Chairman of the Committees on Judiciary, Conservation, Constitutional Law and Insurance.
  • 1954: Received the Young Man of the Year Award from the Massachusetts Junior Chamber of Commerce.
  • 1958: Elected to the United States House of Representatives defeating Professor James M. Burns of Williams College by a decisive margin.
  • 1959: Named to the powerful Appropriations Committee and its Subcommittee on the Treasury and Post Office and Subcommittee on Foreign Operations. Traveled to Southeast Asia to inspect the Mutual Security Program (foreign aid) operations. Cosponsored an Area Redevelopment Bill that would provide federal funds on a loan basis to finance industrial development projects to areas with chronic unemployment.
  • 1960: Delegate to the Republican National Convention. Five new towns - Amherst, Hadley, Hatfield, Northampton and Easthampton - were added to the First District as a result of redistricting.
  • 1961: Cast a deciding vote that changed the make-up of the House Rules Committee to enable President Kennedy to move his legislative agenda through Congress. Legislation to establish a Cape Cod National Seashore was signed into law. As an original co-sponsor, worked for over two years to enact this measure. Voted enthusiastically in favor of legislation authorizing the establishment of the Peace Corps. House adopted Conte amendment to Peace Corps bill prohibiting members of Peace Corps from serving in any country where they may be subjected to discrimination.
  • 1962: Won re-election by a wider margin than any other Republican incumbent who faced opposition. Urged approval of sponsored bill, House Joint Resolution 479, intended to protect the golden and bald eagles from extinction. Introduced an amendment to eliminate the use of occupant and boxholder mailing privileges of Members of Congress.
  • 1963: Named by Republic of Italy to the rank of Commendatore of the Order of Merit for his work in support of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Introduced legislation that would create a National Economic Conversion Commission, its mission to minimize changes in defense spending on the economy. Cast crucial Appropriations Committee vote in support of President Johnson's foreign aid package, bucking Democratic Chairman Otto Passman.
  • 1964: Denounced by extremists at the Republican National Convention held in San Francisco for outspoken opposition to the John Birch Society. Received the nomination of both the Republican and Democratic parties in bid for re-election to Congressional seat. Cosponsored immigration and naturalization reform legislation. Conte bill would liberalize policies and overhaul the quota system.
  • 1965: Appointed a member of the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission on February 1st. Named to the Joint Commission on the Coinage when that body was authorized under the Coinage Act of 1965. One of first members of Congress to support the creation of the Medicare and Medicaid Programs. Marched along with Martin Luther King, Jr. on historic march to Selma, Alabama.
  • 1966: Eliminated quota on residual oil imports to the East Coast. Supported the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. Began serving on the Small Business Committee and held ranking minority seat from 1969 to 1978.
  • 1967: Helped to establish public broadcasting by voting for the Public Broadcasting Act.
  • 1968: Spoke out against Vietnam War before Pittsfield Area Council of Churches, becoming first member of Massachusetts delegation to oppose the war. As member of the Republican presidential convention's platform committee, publicly opposed nomination of Spiro Agnew as Vice-President, preferring George Romney of Michigan.
  • 1969: Introduced first bill ever to eliminate the oil import quota system that had been instituted in 1959. Appointed to Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation.
  • 1970: Wrote law creating Amtrak to preserve passenger rail travel. Won re-election unopposed for the fourth election in a row. Voted against supersonic transport (SST) despite widespread support in First District.
  • 1971: Secured assignment on Health, Education and Welfare Subcommittee and relinquished seats on Subcommittees on Foreign Operations and Treasury, Postal Service. Became ranking minority member of Transportation Subcommittee. In April held first annual trout derby on Onota Lake, Pittsfield.
  • 1972: Voted against a constitutional amendment which would prohibit the busing of school children to achieve racially balanced schools. Cosponsored the Fair International Trade Act of 1972 to modernize existing law regarding the regulation of
  • 1973: Named co-chairman of the newly organized New England Congressional Caucus. Reappointed to the Foreign Operations Subcommittee, after two-year hiatus. Awarded honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from the University of Massachusetts. Obtained initial grant to fund the Five College free bus system.
  • 1974: Demanded immediate Congressional investigation into effect of aerosol sprays on the ozone layer. Introduced amendment to Foreign Aid bill to limit funds to Cambodia.
  • 1975: Traveled to the Middle East with Congressional delegation. Met with Israeli and Egyptian leaders. Cosponsored legislation to study feasibility of establishing a nationally sponsored cross-country bicycle trails system. Sponsored successful amendment to bar expenditure of $122.9 million for further production of the F1-11F fighter bomber. Satirized Emergency Farm Price Support Bill by proposing
  • 1976: Broke a House-Senate deadlock on the abortion issue, by writing compromise language to prohibit federal funding
  • 1977: Traveled to China as part of congressional delegation.
  • 1978: Created with House Speaker Tip O'Neill, low-income home energy assistance program, (LIHEAP).
  • 1979: Became ranking minority member of the House Appropriations Committee and ranking minority member on the Legislative; Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education; and Transportation subcommittees. Gave up seat on Foreign Operations subcommittee. Appointed by Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill, Jr. to the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution. Supported the passage of the Alaska Lands legislation which provided for the preservation of millions of acres of wilderness in Alaska. Released final report of the New England Energy Congress. Sponsored by the New England Congressional Congress, of which Conte was co-chairman, the report addressed 22 energy conservation bills, many of vital concern to oil-dependent New England.
  • 1980: The Small Business Development Center opened at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Played a leading role in obtaining federal funds necessary to start program. Introduced legislation for a nuclear freeze.
  • 1981: Kept Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee open with joint-use agreement. Prevailed in the decade-long fight against the Dickey-Lincoln water project in Maine with the deauthorization of project. Traveled to Australia and New Zealand as part of a Congressional delegation.
  • 1982: The Small Business Innovation and Development Act passed. Had sponsored and supported for past five years through legislative initiative as a member of the House Committee on Small Business. Joined the Congressional Caucus on Women's Issues. (Formerly the Congresswomen's Caucus)
  • 1983: Cosponsored the first $5 million for AIDS research. Donned a pig's snout and ears on the House floor to denounce pork-barrel projects and specifically to fight the Garrison Diversion Project in North Dakota. Was the second Paul Hoffmann Lecturer at the United Nations in New York. Voted against funding for MX missiles in Appropriations Committee vote. Ultimately approved by 30-26 vote.
  • 1984: Introduced H.R. 5175 to impose a nine-month moratorium on large oil company mergers.
  • 1985: The Conte Africa Supplemental was signed into law. It provided $800 million for famine and disaster relief and was one of the largest emergency supplemental bills ever approved by Congress. Traveled to the Soviet Union as a member of first Congressional delegation to meet with Mikhail Gorbachev. Urged Soviet leader to halt nuclear arms race. An original sponsor of H.R. 700, Civil Rights Restoration Act. Act was ultimately defeated by pro-life groups. Launched
  • 1986: Helped to prevent the construction by the U.S. Air Force of the highly unpopular Radio Relay Tower (
  • 1987: Underwent surgery for removal of cancerous growth in prostate gland. In the wake of
  • 1988: Won passage of cosponsored plant-closing legislation. Announced support for own party presidential candidate George Bush over Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. Announced a $300,000 Health and Human Services grant to the Holyoke Health Center to combat high infant mortality rates.
  • 1989: Coauthored the landmark North American Wetlands Conservation Act, which provided up to $25 million annually for wetland and waterfowl habitat preservation and restoration. Spoke at dedication of the Silvio O. Conte Forum, the new Athletic Arena, Boston College on February 19. Obtained $2 million grant for Smith College in Northampton. Won enactment of resolution to declare the 1990s
  • 1990: Reelected to 17th term with 78 percent of the vote. Announced allocation of funds through amendment on Treasury, Postal Service Appropriations Bill for move of the Regional United States Fish and Wildlife Service Office to the Amherst area. Through same amendment allocated funds to build a New England Regional Archives of the National Archives in Pittsfield. In February introduced bill H.R. 3977 Antarctica Protection and Conservation Act, the first bill to increase protection for the Antarctic environment and prevent mineral exploitation. Established an educational foundation to assist graduating First District high school students attend a college of their choice. Passage of the Clean Air Act, the culmination of a decade-long fight to stop acid rain. Had signed on as the first Republican sponsor of new clean-air and acid-rain legislation. Appointed by President to sit on Budget Summit, as one of eleven members of the House. Worked out a proposal to keep the federal deficit on a declining track. Attended dedication of the Silvio O. Conte Anadromous Fish Research Center, Turner's Falls capping twenty-four-year effort to bring Atlantic salmon back to Connecticut River. Introduced amendment to farm bill limiting government subsidies to $100,000 per farmer and banning farmers from collecting multiple subsidies. Although amendment went down in defeat, succeeded in limiting subsidies to $250,000 per farmer. Through position on Subcommittee on Transportation restored popular Montrealer service from Washington to Montreal with service through Amherst and obtained $139 million to set up high-speed Boston-New York Rail service. Broke with President Bush in voting against constitutional amendment banning burning of U.S. flag. Singled out by the Citizens Against Government Waste as one of four representatives most accomplished at garnering grants for his state and district.
  • 1991: On January 12th submitted last big vote as one of only three Republican members of Congress to deny President Bush the authority to use force to repel Iraqi troops from Kuwait. In honor of career-long efforts to restore the Connecticut River and to complete the work begun, passage of H.R. 794 was completed which named the fish and wildlife haven along the Connecticut River the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, only the second such designated refuge in the country. Died February 8th at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland of complications caused by cancer.

From the guide to the Silvio O. Conte Congressional Papers MS 371., 1950-1991, (Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Records of the Office of the Staff Secretary. 1976 - 1981. Presidential Files. 1977 - 1981. 5/31/79 Jimmy Carter Library
referencedIn Mordecai Bauman Papers, 1926-2006 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
referencedIn Van Waters, Miriam, 1887-1974. Papers, 1861-1971 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Brooke, Edward William, 1919-. Papers, 1956-1988 (bulk 1963-1978). Library of Congress
referencedIn Edward William Brooke Papers, 1956-1988, (bulk 1963-1978) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Bartlett, Eliot F. Correspondence of Eliot Fitch Bartlett [manuscript] 1937-1973. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Bauman, Mordecai. Papers, 1926-2000. New-York Historical Society
referencedIn Rochester Institute of Technology,. Rochester Institute of Technology Honorary Degree records 1968-2007 RIT Library, Wallace Library
creatorOf Silvio O. Conte Congressional Papers MS 371., 1950-1991 Special Collections and University Archives, UMass Amherst Libraries
referencedIn William J. Angelo Papers MS 441., 1973-1990, 1986-1990 Special Collections and University Archives, UMass Amherst Libraries
creatorOf Americans for Democratic Action. Massachusetts Chapter. Americans for Democratic Action records, 1949-1976. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Koussevitzky, Serge, 1874-1951. Serge Koussevitzky Archive, 1920-1976 (bulk: 1924-1951) Library of Congress. Music Division
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Americans for Democratic Action. Massachusetts Chapter. corporateBody
associatedWith Angelo, William J. person
associatedWith Bartlett, Eliot F. person
associatedWith Bauman, Mordecai. person
correspondedWith Brooke, Edward William, 1919- person
correspondedWith Koussevitzky, Serge, 1874-1951 person
associatedWith MIRIAM VAN WATERS, 1887-1974 person
associatedWith Rochester Institute of Technology, corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Congress. House. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Congress. House. Committee on Appropriations. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Congress. House. Committee on Small Business. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Massachusetts. General Court. Senate.


Birth 1921-11-09

Death 1991-02-08




Ark ID: w6xm0zcx

SNAC ID: 71937326